Help make Illinois a leader in false confession reform

Call your IL lawmakers 217-280-9100 and urge them to pass HB 5346 to become the first state in the country to protect innocent people from having unreliable confessions used in court.

Angel Gonzalez was wrongfully convicted of a 1994 rape and kidnapping and spent nearly 21 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Investigators quickly honed in on Mr. Gonzalez as a suspect after the victim’s boyfriend noted Mr. Gonzalez’s car did not look like it belonged at the apartment building. At the time of the incident, Mr. Gonzalez spoke very limited English and was never told why he was arrested. By the time the interrogation began, Mr. Gonzalez had been awake for over 24 hours and he waived his Miranda rights, which were read to him in English. Mr. Gonzalez maintained his innocence and provided an alibi, however the detectives lied and told him those individuals did not support his story. Mr. Gonzalez was eventually interrogated in Spanish and was asked to write out a statement in Spanish. However, Mr. Gonzalez’s written statement did not match the details of the crime, so one of the detectives prepared a written statement in English, which Mr. Gonzalez then signed. 

Although no physical evidence ever linked Mr. Gonzalez to the crime and he had multiple witnesses to confirm his alibi, he was convicted based in large part due to the signed English confession the detective had written. Mr. Gonzalez was convicted and sentenced to 55 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping. 

When the Illinois Innocence Project took up Mr. Gonzalez’s case in partnership with the Innocence Project, they were able to secure DNA testing on the crime scene and rape kit evidence. The testing conclusively showed that Mr. Gonzalez was not one of the perpetrators and his conviction was finally vacated in 2015. 

Providing judges with a mechanism to assess the reliability of a defendant’s statement before trial is a critical step in safeguarding against wrongful convictions. While Mr. Gonzalez was eventually exonerated due to DNA testing, his statement — along with many other Illinosians whose convictions are based on unreliable statements made during police interrogations — should have never been used as evidence in court.

Use the form above to contact your lawmakers and urge them to pass first-in-the-nation legislation in Illinois that would prevent unreliable confessions from being used at criminal trials and reduce the risk of future wrongful convictions. 

This campaign is in partnership with the Illinois Innocence Project, And Justice for All, and The Center on Wrongful Convictions.

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