Armando Serrano was a new father when Chicago police arrested him on the concrete stairs outside his Northwest Side bungalow and charged him with murder.
Twenty-three years later, he returned to the block, a gold cross chain from a fellow inmate around his neck and a wariness from his decades in prison evident as family, friends and reporters swirled around him. His sons, both grown men now, beamed seeing their father outside of prison walls for the first time in their lives.
“This is weird,” Serrano, 44, said, standing astonished outside his boyhood home. “I knew I was innocent so that made me hopeful that someday I would get justice, and fortunately that day is today.”
Hours earlier and hundreds of miles away, his co-defendant Jose Montanez, 49, sobbed as he embraced family members outside of Danville prison. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said, crying. “It’s been a lot of pain.”
Both men were released from prison Wednesday after prosecutors dropped murder charges against them that were based on the police work of a West Side officer whose conduct on the job has increasingly come under scrutiny.
The announcement by prosecutors came after a harshly worded appeals court ruling last month found that “profoundly alarming acts of misconduct” had led to the convictions of Montanez and Serrano for a 1993 murder.
Attorneys for the men said they hoped the decision was a signal that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was taking a fresh look at all cases involving former Detective Reynaldo Guevara.
But her office rejected the idea, saying the decision was made strictly on the facts of that particular case.
“We examine the merits of each claim and the facts of each case individually and each case is handled based upon its own set of facts,” said spokeswoman Sally Daly in a statement. “In this particular case, we are unable to meet our burden of proof, so we believe that it is in the best interests of justice to dismiss this case.”
But Kimberly Foxx, who will take over the office in December, said in an interview that she would review cases involving Guevara, including those against two other inmates, Roberto Almodovar and Robert Bouto, previously identified as likely to be innocent in an investigation ordered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel several years ago.
Attorneys who represent those seeking to overturn their convictions have long compared Guevara to disgraced former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge. They say dozens of cases linked to Guevara need to be reviewed.