Chicago man awarded $17M US in police misconduct lawsuit

A federal jury has awarded more than $17 million US to a former prison inmate who alleged that three former Chicago police detectives framed him for a murder he didn't commit.

Detective, accused of framing suspect, linked to almost 20 other cases thrown out of court

Former Chicago police detective Reynaldo Guevara. seen in this 2013 photo, is named in eight more federal lawsuits, the Chicago Tribune reports. (Alex Wroblewski/The Sun Times/Associated Press)

A federal jury on Friday awarded more than $17 million US to a former inmate who alleged that three former Chicago police detectives — including one who has been at the centre of nearly 20 cases tossed out of court — framed him for a murder he didn't commit.

The verdict marks at least the second multi-million dollar jury verdict in favour of a former inmate who alleged that Reynaldo Guevara helped frame him. And he is one of 18 men who have had their convictions in cases involving Guevara tossed out of court amid allegations of brutality and coercion.

During the trial, Jacques Rivera's attorneys alleged that Guevara coerced a 12-old boy, the only witness in a 1988 slaying, into identifying Rivera as the killer. Rivera spent 21 years in prison before he was exonerated in 2011 and released from prison.

For his part, Guevara did what he has done repeatedly in other cases: He refused to answer questions. Last year, for example, after he either refused to answer questions or said he did not remember basic facts, a judge tossed out the convictions of two men who had been in prison for more than two decades as he accused Guevara of telling "bald-faced lies."

When he took the stand in federal court in the Rivera lawsuit, Guevara invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 200 times.

That could spell trouble for the city which has paid out well over $670 million in police misconduct cases in the past 15 years and now is faced with at least a dozen more lawsuits filed by former prison inmates who alleged that, like Rivera, Guevara framed them in the 1980s and 1990s.

Guevara has never been charged with a crime. But in civil trials jurors are allowed to draw what is called a "negative inference" from his silence.

On Friday, besides awarding Rivera the compensatory damages from the city, Guevara and two other former detectives were ordered to pay a total of $175,000 in punitive damages. A fourth ex-detective was cleared of wrongdoing.