County of Conviction: Cook (Illinois)

Convicted of: First Degree Murder

Sentence: Death, Commuted to Life Without the Possibility of Parole

Year of Conviction: 1992

On May 12, 1992, two members of the Latin Kings were shot and killed in a Humboldt Park bathroom. At 9:00 p.m. the next evening, Chicago police arrested Marilyn Mulero and Jackie Montanez, took the women to Humboldt Park, and interrogated them about the murders. The officers displayed Marilyn and Montanez to Latin King members, which associated the women with the crimes. After being displayed, detectives separately interviewed the women. Police denied Marilyn legal representation and questioned her for over nine hours in her non-native language.

After interrogation without counsel or sleep, Marilyn signed a prepared statement, which implicated her for both murders. Marilyn’s attorney, Jeremiah Lynch, entered a blind plea of guilty, paving the way for Mulero’s death sentence. Lynch failed to provide Marilyn an accurate and honest assessment of the strength of her case. Lynch’s representation fell far below the objective and professional standards of reasonableness. Lynch did not interview a single witness, police officer, or verify any witness accounts, despite the fact that Marilyn maintained her innocence. In total, Lynch only spent about ten minutes with Marilyn. Shortly after a court sentenced Marilyn to death, Lynch quit the legal profession and entered priesthood.

The prosecution’s key witness, Jackie Serrano, claimed she witnessed the murders through her apartment window. Serrano saw three women and two men in the park from her apartment. Serrano saw the taller woman enter the bathroom with a man and heard a firecracker sound. Serrano saw the tallest woman leave the bathroom, without the man, and saw the shorter woman shoot the other man in the back of his head.

Subsequent investigation showed it was impossible for Serrano to observe the homicide. In addition, law enforcement officers, with almost two decades of experience, concluded Serrano’s account was impossible. Not only was it impossible to hear a gunshot or a verbal conversation, but it was physically impossible for anyone, at night, to have seen the murder from Serrano’s apartment, over 489 feet away. Montanez later admitted to shooting both men.

Despite strong evidence of innocence, Mulero has been wrongfully incarcerated for over two decades.  In 2015, the California Innocence Project filed a petition in the United Nations.  She maintains her innocence and the California Innocence Project is working towards her exoneration.