In 2016, after twenty three years of wrongful incarceration, a Cook County judge vacated the convictions and dismissed all charges against Jose Montanez, and his co-defendant, Armando Serrano. In February 1993, Montanez and Serrano were each sentenced to 55 years in the killing of a west side Chicago man. Both men have long proclaimed their innocence. Neither Montanez nor Serrano confessed to the killing, and there is no physical or eyewitness evidence linking either man to the crime.
The only evidence against Montanez and Serrano was manufactured by Guevara when he fed a heroin addict a false story implicating the two innocent men. “My false testimony was given as a result of threats, intimidation and physical abuse by Detective Reynaldo Guevara,” The informant later testified via affidavit. The informant admitted that he agreed to testify against Montanez and Serrano after the prosecution gave him a reduced sentence for his pending robbery charges in exchange for a guilty plea.
At the request of the Chicago Mayor’s Office, the Montanez-Serrano convictions were among the handful of cases reviewed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office involving notorious Chicago Detective Reynaldo Guevara. In a 2015 report on the review, it was concluded by a team of independent attorneys that Montanez and Serrano were “more likely than not actually innocent.” Two previous Guevara murder cases also unraveled, and court records document numerous defendants who claim they were similarly railroaded by the Area 5 Detective, who is refusing to testify based on the Fifth Amendment on grounds that truthful answers may subject him to criminal charges. The Better Government Association reported in 2015 that the City of Chicago has paid nearly $20 million to review, litigate, and settle Guevara-related misconduct cases.