July 31, 2017
In 1994, Angel Gonzalez was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for the rape and kidnapping of a woman in Waukegan, Illinois. On the night of the crime, Mr. Gonzalez had been visiting his fiancé’s sister, who lived in the same apartment building as the victim. The victim’s boyfriend saw Mr. Gonzalez leaving the parking lot that night, and she misidentified his car as the car that the assailants had been driving earlier in the evening. The police pulled Mr. Gonzalez over and brought him in handcuffs to the victim, who was in the backseat of the squad car. From still inside the dark car, the victim identified Mr. Gonzalez as one of her attackers, even though he didn’t match her original description of either perpetrator. Angel Gonzalez is Mexican and had only been in the United States for a little more than a year at the time, and he spoke very limited English. During the interrogation process, he wrote a statement in Spanish, which was then translated and read in English by Detective Lou Marquez. These two statements were later revealed to be completely different. Mr. Gonzalez signed a statement prepared in English by Detective Marquez, which, combined with the victim’s misidentification, was enough to sentence him to 40 years in jail, despite his having four alibi witnesses testify in his defense. The Innocence Project conducted DNA testing in 2001 that identified one male DNA profile that didn’t match Gonzalez. In 2012, the Innocence Project again conducted DNA testing, this time yielding two distinct male profiles that both excluded Mr. Gonzalez as an assailant. On March 10th, 2015, Angel Gonzalez was finally exonerated after serving 20 years in prison. In this episode, he is joined by Vanessa Potkin, Director of Post-Conviction Litigation at the Innocence Project.