Man awarded $21 million after wrongfully imprisoned 12 years

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A federal jury has awarded more than $21 million to a Chicago man who spent nearly 12 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted. It’s one of the largest settlements ever in a wrongful conviction lawsuit.

The jury ruled in favor of Juan Johnson Monday in a lawsuit against the city of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department and a detective involved in the case.

Johnson was convicted in 1991 of beating a man to death and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He spent 11 ½ years behind bars.

“Stateville is pure hell. You’re surrounded by the worst. I didn’t expect to survive,” Johnson said. “I already gave up hope.”

The Illinois Appellate Court reversed the conviction in 2002 based on new evidence that showed a Detective Reynaldo Guevara had coerced witnesses to implicate Johnson. A jury acquitted him in 2004.

Other families showed up at Johnson’s press conference on Monday, claiming Guevara also framed their loved ones.

“The Chicago Police Department and the city of Chicago has been on notice for at least 12 years that this was a pattern and practice of Officer Guevara. It’s time that it’s stopped,” said the Center on Wrongful Convictions’ Rob Warden. Guevara is now retired.

theGrio Asks: Is $21 million dollars worth 11 years in prison for a crime you haven’t committed?