Wednesday June 23, 2021
| Last update: Wednesday at 3:10 PM

Frame-up Victims Declared Innocent

by Ruth Peña and Joe Iosbaker |
March 1, 2004
"Henry Johnson" , "Juan Johnson"
Juan Johnson (left), who was framed by Chicago police, spent most of his adult life in prison for a crime he did not commit. (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Juan Johnson with CEJ members and the banner they held outside his trial.
Juan Johnson with CEJ members and the banner they held outside his trial.

Chicago, IL - Juan and Henry Johnson spent almost their entire adult lives in prison, fighting charges for a murder they didn’t commit.
On Feb. 23, a jury declared Juan Johnson innocent. Now both are free.

Blanca Gonzalez of the Comité Exigimos Justicia, along with representatives of the organization Families of the Wrongfully Convicted and former death row prisoner Aaron Patterson, rallied outside the courtroom while Juan Johnson’s new trial was taking place. “So many jurors saw our sign outside and heard Aaron chanting that the judge had to advise the jurors not to let it affect their opinions!” said Gonzalez.

Another Frame-Up in Humboldt Park

Fourteen years ago, a man died in a fight that broke out at a party in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. Residents of the apartment building who witnessed the whole party said that there were no Black people fighting. But the police never canvassed the building for witnesses. Instead, the police fingered two Black men, the Johnson brothers.

The Johnsons went to jail because of a crooked cop, Detective Ray Guevara. This is another case from the Gang Crimes Unit of Area 5 of the Chicago Police Department where there was no physical evidence - only witnesses who were coerced by Guevara. Several of those who had testified against the Johnsons in the first trial later recanted. They now state that Guevara had Polaroids of the Johnson brothers. Guevara brought these witnesses to the police station, showed them the photos and told them that the Johnsons were the killers.

One of the original witnesses confessed that Det. Guevara had threatened him: either accuse the two brothers or be blamed for the murder yourself. It should come as no surprise that after he recanted, they charged him, and now that man is serving a lengthy sentence for a crime he did not commit.

Detective Guevara lied on the witness stand, stating that he never showed Polaroids to the witnesses. This news can be used to prove his frame-up ways and help his other victims.

The Comité Exigimos Justicia (CEJ) has documented 50 cases where Guevara and the Area 5 Gang Crimes Unit used methods just like these to assign blame. When murders happen in Humboldt Park, the racist Chicago Police Department wants to make arrests quickly, for the appearance of doing their job.

The falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned have been mostly Puerto Rican, as Humboldt Park was the Puerto Rican neighborhood when Detective Guevara and his gang started their attacks. As Mexicanos, other Latinos and African Americans moved into the neighborhood, they became the victims. While there are some poor whites among the wrongfully convicted, the growing list of men targeted by these criminal cops shows that the oppressed nationality communities are victimized by racism.

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win

Juan Johnson told a joyful crowd at a Comité Exigimos Justicia meeting, “Two women jurors said that seeing people outside fighting for me made them doubt the police.” In addition, he said, “Guevara came off as arrogant and not credible.”

Ruth Peña of CEJ said, “All these cops want to do is close the case and clean out the neighborhood, taking out the people they don’t like, first the original community of Puerto Ricans, and then other Latinos and Blacks and poor whites. They work together with developers that are, at the same time, gentrifying our communities.”

Juan Johnson told the Comité after his trial that he will be thankful to all who helped for the rest of his life. CEJ will continue their campaign to end frame-ups in Area 5, speaking out and fighting for justice.