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Illinois Innocence Project client sues the Chicago Police Department

Marilyn Mulero, former death row inmate, speaks to reporters after her exoneration last year
Illinois Innocence Project
Marilyn Mulero, former death row inmate, speaks to reporters after her exoneration last year

Attorneys for the Illinois Innocence Project and the California Innocence Project fought for the exoneration of wrongfully convicted Marilyn Mulero – Illinois’ first Latina to be sentenced to death row.

Chicagoan Mulero was convicted in 1993 on a coerced confession and what turned out to be evidence fabricated by a pair of CPD detectives who knew she was innocent, according to court documents. Mulero was exonerated in Cook County last year after spending nearly 28 years in prison.

This week a pair of Chicago law firms filed a lawsuit that states that Mulero “seek(s) compensation for those injuries and to hold defendants accountable for their evil, malicious, and unconstitutional misconduct.”

The lawsuit charges that the detectives “failed to provide her with access to a lawyer, used egregiously unconstitutional interrogation tactics, coerced a false confession from her through intimidation and psychological torture, manipulated and coerced purported witnesses into providing false statements, promised leniency to jailhouse informants in exchange for false testimony, and manipulated lineups and identifications.”

"Marilyn suffered unthinkable trauma and anguish as a young mother sent to death row for a crime she did not commit,” said Illinois Innocence Project’s Lauren Kaeseberg, who co-directs the innocence project, which is based at the University of Illinois Springfield. "She literally fought for her life and won her freedom but will live with the consequences of her almost two decades of wrongful incarceration for the rest of her life.’

Mulero was accused after a different woman bragged to a friend about fatally shooting two Latin King members in Chicago’s Humboldt Park.

The ‘friend” later was arrested on drug possession charges and, hoping for leniency, told CPD detectives she had information about the murders. The lawsuit contends that officers, trying to rack up additional arrests, framed Mulero instead.

According to her attorneys, “Mulero believed that she had no choice but to plead guilty in the hopes of garnering sympathy and avoiding the death penalty."

“Marilyn Mulero spent nearly three decades in prison based on evidence fabricated or coerced by detectives Reynaldo Guevara and Ernest Halvorsen. What happened to her was a disgrace by the CPD and these officers, who abused their position and did unthinkable damage to many lives and families, said Romanucci & Blandin
partner Antonio M. Romanucci, whose firm is working on the civil lawsuit.

Chicago Police declined to comment.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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