Woman whose murder convictions were overturned sues city, Chicago police detectives
CHICAGO - A woman who was accused of a double slaying in Humboldt Park, pleaded guilty and served 17 years behind bars before being cleared is suing the city and several detectives.
In 1993, Madeline Mendoza pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Jimmy Cruz and Hector Reyes on the West Side the previous year. She was sentenced to 35 years but served 17 before being released in 2009.
Her case was investigated by disgraced former police Dets. Reynaldo Guevara and Ernest Halvorsen.
Mendoza challenged her conviction after learning that lawyers for wrongfully convicted individuals had discovered repeated misconduct by the two detectives. Her attorneys argued that Guevara and Halvorsen fabricated Mendoza’s involvement in the case.
In January, a Cook County judge vacated Mendoza’s convictions. She is among dozens of people convicted of murders investigated by Guevara who have had their convictions thrown out because of allegations Guevara framed the defendants, often by threatening witnesses into making false statements against them.
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The civil suit was filed last week and names the city of Chicago, Guevara and other detectives involved in the case. It seeks unspecified damages.
"Defendants Guevara and Halvorsen conspired, confederated and agreed to fabricate a false story that plaintiff had participated in the murders," the lawsuit states. It also alleges that the detectives lied in police reports they prepared.
The suit also accuses the police department of failing to discipline its officers, instilling in them a belief that they could get away with wrongdoing.
As a direct and proximate result of the Chicago Police Department’s inadequate policies or customs for disciplining, supervising and controlling its officers and the policymakers’ failure to address these problems, the individual officer defendants engaged in misconduct," the suit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that the police department maintains a "code of silence" and officers are trained to not break that code at the academy.
"This ‘code of silence’ facilitated, encouraged and enabled the individual officer defendants to engage in egregious misconduct for many years, knowing that their fellow officers would cover for them and help conceal their widespread wrongdoing," the suit states.
Guevara, who retired in 2006, has refused to answer questions under oath about his investigations.