A Cook County judge vacated the wrongful murder conviction of longtime UIS Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) client Marilyn Mulero and dismissed all charges against her. Mulero, a victim of notorious former Chicago Detective Reynaldo Guevara, spent nearly three decades in prison for a 1992 murder she did not commit.
Marilyn is the first and only female victim of Guevara to be exonerated among over 30 Guevara-related homicide convictions overturned to date. This morning her case was one of eight pending murder convictions heard at the Cook County Courthouse at the request of the Cook County State’s Attorney.
For decades, attorneys and advocates for Guevara’s victims have made the case that homicides investigated by the disgraced former detective are tainted and that the State’s Attorney’s Office cannot defend them. Guevara himself will not defend his investigations as he repeatedly asserts his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself when confronted with allegations that he manipulated his investigations and framed the victims.
Mulero was convicted of a 1992 murder based on evidence fabricated by Guevara and former CPD Detective Ernest Halvorsen. After a marathon 20-hour interrogation session during which she was threatened with lethal injection, told her children would be taken from her, and denied sleep and a lawyer, she signed a statement “confessing” responsibility for one of the murders.
Told by her lawyer she had no choice but to plead guilty, Mulero entered an open plea and was shockingly sentenced to death – without ever having a trial. Her sentence was later reduced to life without parole. She spent the next 28 years, including five on death row, fighting for her innocence.
In 2019, IIP Co-Director Lauren Kaeseberg, and attorneys from the California Innocence Project (CIP) and Exoneration Project, argued for the full pardon of Marilyn in front of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. In April 2020 Gov. JB Pritzker commuted Marilyn’s life sentence and she was released. Since then, we have continued to represent Marilyn in her fight for full exoneration. In fact, IIP has worked on Mulero’s case for close to a decade, beginning under IIP’s former Executive Director John Hanlon in collaboration with CIP Director Justin Brooks.
Courts have called Guevara a “bald faced” liar and “a malignant blight on the Chicago Police Department and the judicial system.” Marilyn’s case is in keeping with the widespread and well-established pattern and practice of abuse by Guevara, which has resulted in more than 30 exonerations to date.
“Marilyn was just 21 when she was ripped away from her two young sons, terrorized by a corrupt police detective, and then convicted and sentenced to die in prison for a crime she did not commit,” says Kaeseberg. “While former Det. Guevara is a real-life example of evil and terror, today’s exoneration of Marilyn and these other innocent men is a shining example of perseverance and a testament to the power of the human spirit. Their bravery in telling their stories gives us all hope that good can always prevail over evil.”