Miguel Castillo

Based on a confession he accused police of fabricating, Miguel Castillo was convicted of a murder he could not have committed

Miguel Castillo was convicted in 1991 of murdering Rene Chinea, a 50-year-old Cuban immigrant whose dismembered and decomposing body was found on May 18, 1988, in his Chicago apartment.

Castillo, a 36-year-old neighbor of the victim, was arrested eight months later based on a tip from a suspect in the crime. Detectives claimed that he confessed, but Castillo denied it. He claimed that he had been beaten by the detectives during interrogation and, when he refused to confess, that they simply fabricated the confession.

Solely on the basis of the alleged confession, Castillo was convicted after a bench trial despite medical testimony that, based on the condition of Chinea's badly decomposed body, it appeared that he had been killed between May 7 and May 9 — when Castillo was being held in jail for an unrelated burglary. The prosecution argued that the murder could have occurred on May 11, the date Castillo was freed on bond, even though the state's own witnesses agreed that the crime almost certainly occurred earlier.

In 2000, in a post-conviction proceeding, Castillo's attorneys presented affidavits by Dr. Robert Kirchner, a former deputy Cook County medical examiner, and Richard Merritt, an entomologist at Michigan State University, stating that new testing, with procedures developed in during the 1990s, confirmed that Chinea died no later than May 9.

On the basis of the affidavits and its own reinvestigation of the case, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office agreed that a new trial was warranted. In 2001, prosecutors dismissed the charges.

After his release, Castillo field a civil suit against the three police officers he accused of framing him — Jose Zuniga, Roland Paulnitsky, and Walter Cipun. On March 29, 2004, the Chicago City Council Finance Committee agreed to settle a civil case against the three police officers accused of framing Castillo for $1.2 million, one third of which went to cover legal fees. In addition, Castillo was eligible for approximately $160,000 compensation from the state of Illinois.