John Galvan, Arthur Almendarez, and Francisco Nanez Are Exonerated in Alleged Aggravated Arson and Murder Case
Combined, the men spent 105 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.
07.21.22 By Innocence Staff
(Chicago, IL — July 21, 2022) The Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the cases of John Galvan, Arthur Almendarez, and Francisco Nanez today, after the convictions of Mr. Galvan and Mr. Almendarez were vacated by the Appellate Court earlier this summer. Mr. Nanez’s conviction was also vacated today. The men were wrongfully convicted for an alleged aggravated arson and alleged murder, for supposedly starting a September 1986 apartment fire on the southwest side of Chicago in which two brothers, Julio Martinez and Guadalupe Martinez, died. Mr. Galvan was just 18, Mr. Almendarez, 20 and Mr. Nanez, 22 when they were arrested and wrongly incarcerated. The men were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and could have been sentenced to death. Combined, they have spent 105 years in prison for an alleged crime they didn’t commit.
Their case is part of the long and documented history of the Chicago Police Department coercing false confessions particularly from BIPOC young men using violence, threats, and intimidation. In addition to now invalidated arson science, the key piece of evidence used to convict Mr. Galvan and his co-defendants was a false confession coerced from him after he was handcuffed to a wall and beaten by police.
Mr. Galvan, Mr. Almendarez and Mr. Nanez’s wrongful conviction was based on three key factors. First, a neighborhood man claimed that he saw Mr. Galvan come out of the alley behind the building that burned around the time the fire began. Second, a Chicago arson investigator said that the fire was an arson based on faulty arson science. Third, and most importantly, Mr. Galvan gave a confession, which he has always maintained was the product of police torture.
The three men were also convicted despite the fact that the only witness who claimed she saw this fire begin, a woman who lived across the street from the building that burned, testified at trial that she saw a group of people in the alley at the time the fire began, but that Mr. Galvan was not in that group. Additionally, Mr. Galvan’s family testified that at the time of this fire he was home asleep.
Years of post-conviction litigation and appeals by the Innocence Project (representing Mr. Galvan), The Exoneration Project (representing Mr. Galvan and Mr. Almendarez) and the Cook County Public Defender (representing Mr. Nanez), revealed that new developments in arson science discredited the testimony of the state’s arson expert as to the cause and origin of the fire.