Appellate court overturns Arlington Heights man's murder conviction
The Illinois Appellate Court on Tuesday reversed the conviction of a former Arlington Heights man convicted of the 2013 murder of 23-year-old Rafael Orozco, who was shot while walking his dog in Wheeling's Winetree Apartment complex.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, Jesus Sanchez, 23, was unaware his conviction had been overturned, said Cook County Assistant Public Dfender Julie Koehler, who represented Sanchez during his 2014 trial.
He remains incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center, where he was serving a 45-year prison term. His attorneys will likely request he be released on bond while Cook County prosecutors decide if they will appeal Tuesday's ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court, Koehler said.
According to the judgment delivered by Justice P. Scott Neville Jr., "the evidence convincingly shows that Sanchez did not murder Orozco."
Orozco was walking his dog Gizmo the evening of May 1, 2013, when he was struck in the back. Prosecutors said he was an innocent bystander who got in the way when Sanchez, then 18, fired at a 15-year-old gang member who authorities say had switched his allegiance.
Defense attorneys argued that police targeted Sanchez because he and his gang rival had been involved in several altercations earlier that day.
Sanchez was "a kid who got swept up into something he had no part of whatsoever," Koehler said. "The police immediately made a judgment at the crime scene that turned out to not be supported by the evidence. Instead of questioning their motives and their decision, they plowed forward and put a case on an innocent kid."
Defense attorneys argued that no witnesses saw Sanchez fire a weapon, no evidence linked him to the shooting and the evidence did not match the statement he gave to police.
The appellate court agreed. The justices found prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence of guilt and that Sanchez "did not voluntarily make the statements" prosecutors relied on for conviction and as a result, those statements should have been suppressed.