Free After 21 Years, Innocent Man Sues Chicago
CHICAGO (CN) - After spending 21 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, an exonerated man claims in Federal Court that Chicago police manipulated a 12-year-old boy into picking him out of a lineup.
Jacques Rivera sued Chicago, 11 police detectives and the estate of a detective who has died.
"On the afternoon of August 17, 1988, 16-year-old Felix Valentin, a member of the Campbell Boys street gang, was shot ten times while sitting in the driver's seat of a car in an alley near the 3300 block of West Cortland in the City of Chicago," the complaint states.
"On or about August 31, 1988, Area Five Detectives Letrich and Moriarty interviewed Valentin at the hospital. Valentin informed Letrich and Moriarty that both the person who shot him and the driver of the getaway car were members of the Imperial Gangsters street gang. Letrich and Moriarty showed Valentin the Imperial Gangsters 'gang book,' which contained pictures of suspected Imperial Gangsters members, and Valentin identified one Jose Rodriguez as his assailant and one Phillip Nieves as the getaway driver."
Neither Dets. Letrich nor Moriarty are named as defendants.
Rivera claims that "the only witness to Valentin's shooting, besides Valentin himself, was a 12-year-old boy named Orlando Lopez, who was hiding in the alley where Valentin was shot at a distance of 30 to 50 feet from the shooting."
Police "showed Lopez a gang book that contained exclusively pictures of persons believed to be members of the Latin King street gang. They did so despite the fact that there was no evidence to suggest that a Latin King had committed the attack on Valentin. Plaintiff was pictured in the book shown to Lopez. Lopez had never before met or seen Plaintiff. Using suggestive tactics, these defendants manipulated Lopez into picking out plaintiff's picture from the gang book and falsely identifying plaintiff as Valentin's shooter," according to the complaint. "None of the defendants'
suggestive tactics were documented in a police report or otherwise disclosed to plaintiff. [Rocco] Rinaldi, the defendants' supervisor, approved and ratified the defendants' actions."
The Estate of Rocco Rinaldi is the 12th defendant in the complaint.
Rivera claims that when Lopez was brought to the station to view a lineup, "Lopez informed [defendant Det. Reynaldo] Guevara and another person whose identity is not known to plaintiff at this time that he had seen the real shooter on the streets and that plaintiff was not the perpetrator. Guevara and the other individual disregarded this information. They used unduly suggestive tactics to manipulate Lopez into picking plaintiff out of the lineup."
In 1990, Rivera was convicted of murdering Valentin, who died of his wounds in September. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.
In 2010, the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions filed a petition on his behalf, claiming that Rivera was actually innocent. Lopez testified at the hearing that "he had falsely identified plaintiff as the perpetrator at the criminal trial and described some of the circumstances leading to that false identification," the complaint states.
Rivera's conviction was vacated and he was released from Stateville Correctional Center after 21 years in prison.
He seeks damages for violation of due process, conspiracy, failure to intervene, malicious prosecution, and emotional distress.
Named as defendants are Chicago police Dets. Reynaldo Guevara, Steve Gawrys, Daniel Noon, John Guzman, Joseph Fallon, Joseph Sparks, Paul Zacharias, Gillian McLaughlin, John Leonard, Edward Mingey, Russell Weingart, and the estate of Rocco Rinaldi.
Rivera is represented by Locke Bowman with the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law.