CHICAGO – A man who had lawful resident status before being wrongfully convicted in Chicago for a 1995 killing was taken into custody Wednesday by immigration authorities.
Cook County prosecutors dropped the case against Ricardo Rodriguez this week amid allegations that a discredited Chicago detective manipulated witnesses. They said their office couldn't meet its burden of proof. But instead of Rodriguez being a free man, he was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Chicago Tribune reports Rodriguez's conviction stemmed from a drive-by shooting on the city's Northwest Side that left a homeless man dead. The victim, Rodney Kemppainen, did neighborhood jobs for people in exchange for sleeping in garages.
"Nobody seems to have motive to kill him, including our client," said Tara Thompson, an attorney representing Rodriguez.
Rodriguez's lawful resident status was revoked when he was convicted, his attorneys said. Now he faces the possibility of being deported despite being freed. Court records show Rodriguez has two convictions for marijuana possession.
Maria Rodriguez-Lopez said her brother was brought to the United States from Mexico as a child and all his family is here.
"It would be a very big injustice for them to do that to not only my mother, but my family, who have tried so hard to prove his innocence all these years," Rodriguez-Lopez said.
The Exoneration Project says two witnesses who testified at trial had been unable to describe the murder suspect until Detective Reynaldo Guevara showed them a picture of Rodriguez. One of the witnesses has since claimed he was manipulated by Guevara.
Rodriguez did not confess to the killing, and there is no physical evidence linking him to it, the attorneys said.
Rodriguez's case is the 10th related to Guevara that has been tossed out since allegations came up that the now-retired detective beat suspects and improperly coerced witnesses.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com