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Wrongful Conviction for First-Degree Murder Vacated 26 Years After Misconduct by Corrupt Chicago Detective Reynaldo Guevara Framed Him

by Jo Ellen Nott

Edwin Davila’s first-degree murder conviction has been vacated after he was paroled in February of 2020. At the time of his release, Davila had spent 24 years wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of a teenager during a set-up gang retaliation shooting.

Following a shooting on West Pierce Avenue that killed 17-year-old Jaime Alvarez in 1995, there were conflicting reports of whether the shooter was a passenger in the car that Alvarez was riding in, which had stopped in the rival gang’s territory, or whether the shooter had emerged from a side street.

A week after the shooting, now retired and discredited detective Reynaldo Guevara and his partner were assigned to investigate the crime. After speaking to children who lived in the neighborhood, Guevara and his partner learned that the shooting involved the Latin Kings and the Jiver street gangs. The two found Davila installing a car stereo nearby and noticed he had the Jiver’s symbol tattooed on his back. With no other evidence than the tattoo and proximity to the crime scene, Guevara questioned and photographed Davila.

Guevara claimed to have spoken to and photographed four other suspects in the area that day but did not put the information in a police report nor document the interviews. Within the next four days, Guevara and his partner presented a photographic lineup with Davila’s picture in it to the two surviving passengers from the car in which Alvarez died. They both identified Davila as the shooter. A week later, the two passengers again choose Davila in a live lineup after Davila had been arrested.

In 1996, Davila underwent a bench trial in the Cook County Circuit Court in which the judge convicted Davila of first-degree murder and attempted murder, saying that the witness identifications were credible. Before Davila was sentenced, however, the defense filed a motion based on affidavits from two witnesses who saw Philip Willis emerge from a gangway and shoot at the car containing Alvarez and his two companions who had survived to identify Davila. The motion was denied, and the judge sentenced Davila to 50 years.

In subsequent post-conviction petitions, affidavits were again presented by the two witnesses who saw Philip Willis shoot Alvarez and from Davila’s girlfriend, who had been on the phone with him at the time of the shooting. Yet another petition was presented in 2000 that included affidavits of two additional witnesses who implicated Willis in the shooting and stated Davila was not present. All the petitions were dismissed.

On February 7, 2020, Davila was released on parole. The Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School filed a petition in 2022 to vacate Davila’s conviction. The Exoneration Project used the prior affidavits, claiming Willis was the shooter and added information about Guevara’s misconduct during his years with the Chicago Police Department. The petition listed dozens of murder convictions that had been overturned because Guevara physically abused suspects to coerce false confessions and witnesses to make false identifications.

The petition also mentioned that Davila had no way to know that the victims were pinning a murder on him and that the lead detective on his case is accused of being the most corrupt police officer in Chicago’s history, which is quite a feat given its rouge’s gallery of corrupt cops over the years. Guevara retired in 2005 and has collected at least $1.2 million in taxpayer-provided pension as of February 2022. The overturning of Davila’s conviction marks the 33rd wrongful conviction tied to Guevara.

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