Luis Ortiz

Framed by fabrications of a purported eyewitness

Luis Ortiz was one of five men wrongfully charged with, and four men wrongfully convicted of the torture-murder of a 56-year-old furniture dealer, Sindulfo Miranda, in the Logan Square neighborhood on the near northwest side of Chicago in July 1997.

Ortiz, a homeless small-time drug peddler, was implicated in the case by a police informant, Miguel LaSalle, who falsely claimed that he had overheard Ortiz, Robert Gayol, Omar Aguirre, Edar Duarte Santos, and Ronnie Gamboa plot the crime, then saw them with the victim around the time of the crime, and even spoke to one of the men, Santos, via cell phone during the crime.

Shortly after the defendants' arrest in November 1997, Aguirre falsely confessed, implicating not only himself but also Santos. Aguirre was convicted by a Cook County Circuit Court jury and sentenced to 55 years in prison in 1999. Santos, meanwhile, remained in the Cook County jail awaiting trial. Finally, in 2002, he pleaded guilty in return for a sentence of only 12 years, meaning that, with day-for-day good time, he would be released in 2003.

Ortiz originally was convicted and sentenced to life for the Miranda murder. In connection with a stabbing that occurred while he was in Cook County jail awaiting trial, he also was convicted of possession of contraband in a penal institution and sentenced to eight years in 2001. Following that conviction, Ortiz turned state's evidence against Gayol in return for having his sentence reduced to 25 years.

Gayol was sentenced to life in prison, and the fifth accused man, Gamboa, owner of a bar on California Avenue where LaSalle falsely claimed to have overheard the plot, was acquitted.

The truth came to light when the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago developed evidence that the Miranda crime actually had been one of a string of drug-related kidnappings and torture committed by nine members of the Latin Kings street gang, who were charged in December 2002. The U.S. Attorney also charged Miguel LaSalle with making false statements implicating the innocent men in the crime.

Case Data

Jurisdiction: Cook County, Illinois
Date of crime: July 1997
Date of arrest: November 7, 1997
Sentence: Life, later reduced to 25 years
Exoneration date: December 18, 2002
Months wrongfully incarcerated: 49
Defendant date of birth: December 2, 1978
Defendant race: Hispanic
Race of victim(s): Hispanic
Defendant prior felony record: Burglary, possession of contraband in a penal institution
Known factors leading to wrongful conviction: Eyewitness perjury, false confession of co-defendant, defendant's own guilty plea in exchange for reduction in sentence from life to 25 years in prison
Exonerated by: Federal investigation identified actual killers

— Rob Warden