Wrongful conviction attorney discusses her motivation: the underdog

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Allegations of abuse and misconduct against retired Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara have rocked Cook County’s courts in recent years.

Nine convictions have been tossed out and more are on the way. 

One of the attorneys leading the charge is Jennifer Bonjean, who took an unlikely path toward helping the wrongfully convicted.

“It’s a system that allows wrongful convictions to happen and then be covered up!” she said.

Attorney Bonjean is making a career out of freeing people like Roberto Almodovar Junior, who was wrongfully convicted for a 1995 double murder. But practicing law wasn’t always in her plans. She studied music at DePaul, entering a beauty pageant to help with the cost, and then got her masters as an opera singer.

While in school, Bonjean counseled rape victims and discovered a new passion.

“I realized pretty quickly that I really sympathize with the underdog. that is my fundamental drive really,” she said.

Roberto Almodovar was an underdog, having spent 23 years in prison. He claimed he was framed by former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara. Bonjean says Guevara framed dozens of men on the Northwest Side in the 1990s. He’s recently taken the 5th amendment rather than testify when their convictions are challenged.

Bonjean says the wrongful convictions here can’t just be blamed on a few bad cops.    

Prosecutors, judges, even defense lawyers, she says, are to blame for failing to reign in the rogue cops.

“What they did to that community is a form of genocide in my opinion. There are children that did not have their fathers, sisters, and mothers that didn’t’ have their brothers and their sons,” Bonjean said.

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