An Illinois appellate court has reversed the conviction of a Waukegan man sentenced to 45 years in prison for attempted murder, ruling that a Lake County prosecutor violated pretrial discovery rules to discredit defense witnesses.
In the unanimous decision handed down Monday, the appellate court found that prosecutors showed jurors a photo of defendant Manuel Carrillo that was not disclosed to the defense before trial.
The photo, taken three weeks before the June 28, 2013, shooting on a Waukegan street, showed Carrillo with short hair. That supported a victim's testimony that the shooter had short hair and refuted defense witnesses who said Carrillo, 24, had shoulder-length hair at the time.
County prosecutors can now ask the Illinois Supreme Court to reconsider the decision or hold a new trial for Carrillo.
"We are reviewing the decision and our options," State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said Tuesday. "We will decide whether to challenge the (appellate court) opinion or retry the case."
Carrillo was convicted in June 2014 on charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member.
He used an alibi and mistaken identity defense at trial, claiming he was in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with family members the day of the shooting. Some of those family members also testified that Carillo's hair was shoulder-length at the time, contradicting the victim who said he was shot by a man who was "clean shaven with short hair."
After defense witnesses testified about Carillo's long hair, prosecutors presented jurors a Waukegan police booking photo taken June 7, 2013, showing him with short hair. They had not previously told the defense about the photo, according to the appellate court ruling.
In the decision, the appellate court ruled the entire defense strategy depended on persuading jurors that the victim misidentified Carrillo.
"Based on the state's failure to disclose the booking photograph after it formed the intent to use it at trial, we hold that the defendant was unfairly prejudiced," Justice Susan F. Hutchinson wrote. "The defendant was deprived of information necessary to prepare for trial."
Carrillo attorney James Schwarzbach said Tuesday he could not comment until after he reads the opinion.