Exonerated Man Sues Chicago Police After 21 Years in Prison

Man claims police falsified evidence and manipulated a witness

By Lindsay Smith
|  Thursday, Jun 7, 2012  |  Updated 3:13 PM CDT
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Exonerated Man Sues Police After 21 Years in Prison

Jacques Rivera, convicted of killing a man more than 20 years ago, walked out of the Cook County Jail on Tuesday evening and into the arms of family and friends.

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A man released from prison after serving 21 years for a crime he didn't commit is suing police and the City of Chicago.

Jacques Rivera, 47, filed a lawsuit claiming police officers manipulated a young witness and falsified evidence to convict him of first-degree murder.

“While we absolutely commend the Cook County State’s Attorneys’ Office for its decision to dismiss the charges, simply releasing Mr. Rivera from prison has not made him whole for all that he has suffered,” said attorney Jon Loevy. “He deserves compensation for the injustice that cost him so much of his life.”

Rivera was convicted in August 1988 of shooting and killing 16-year-old Felix Valentin. The lawsuit alleges police manipulated 12-year-old Orlando Lopez, the only witness to the crime, into identifying Rivera as the shooter.

According to the suit, Lopez failed to identify the shooter in a first line-up that included Rivera, but police made no record of it. After Lopez allegedly came across the shooter in his neighborhood, the lawsuit claims he viewed a second lineup two weeks later and was pressured by the police who apparently used "suggestive tactics" to falsely identify Rivera.

After 20 years, the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions filed a petition alleging Rivera's innocence and an evidentiary hearing was held.

During the hearing Lopez testified that he falsely chose Rivera out of a lineup. In September 2011 the Cook County Circuit Court overturned Rivera's conviction and the charges against him were dismissed.

"Jacques Rivera has suffered a grave injustice at the hands of Chicago police who manipulated a young boy, falsified evidence and exhibit utter indifference to the truth," said Locke Bowman, an attorney whose firm, the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center, is representing Rivera.

Bowman said the Chicago Police Department has a record of wrongful convictions.

"This is a pattern with the Chicago Police Department," he said. "The Police Department has never investigated any of these cases or disciplined an officer despite clear, egregious misconduct in many of these cases. That's simply unacceptable."

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