Charges dropped against Chicago man freed after 34 years in prison

Francisco 'Frankie' Benitez says CPD detectives framed him for Humboldt Park double murder in 1991

Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Charges dropped against wrongfully convicted Chicago man
Cook County prosecutors dropped charges against Francisco Benitez after his murder conviction was vacated last month.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Cook County prosecutors decided to drop all of the charges against Francisco "Frankie" Benitez Tuesday morning.

This ends his decades-long ordeal after spending 34 years in prison for a 1989 murder he didn't commit.

Benitez said he has a trip planned with his mom, and he is looking forward to the rest of his life.

"I'm not bitter," he said. "I'm just -- the system needs to be fixed. It's very, very broken. There's more guys like me going through this."

"For my 70th birthday, we're going to Florida, Orlando, for Disney, and that's how we're gonna celebrate," mother Betty Benitez said.

RELATED: Chicago man free after 34 years in prison after Cook County judge vacates conviction, sentence

Back in August, a Cook County judge vacated Benitez's conviction, saying he had presented sufficient evidence of his innocence.

Lawyers with the Exoneration Project and a private firm took on his case presenting new eyewitness evidence. They claim Benitez was framed by Chicago police detectives and that his confession was coerced.

"We put on that evidence, and it made very, very clear that they prosecuted, arrested the wrong person," said Josh Tepfer, with the Exoneration Project.

After the judge exonerated Benitez, he was released on an electronic monitor, but he and his legal team have been waiting for this day to see if prosecutors would drop all charges, and they did.

"We always felt that that the actual innocence finding would lead to this decision today, and the state's attorney would not seek to re-try him. But we had to wait, and today we got the answer, and the answer is Frankie is innocent. And he's home, and this is over," Benitez's attorney Anand Swaminathan said.

Benitez, now 52, was convicted in September of 1991. He was arrested when he was just 18 years old, but maintained his innocence, saying that he had an alibi, and was being framed by Chicago Police Department detectives.

On Tuesday. the judge said "this case is over," and ordered the removal of Benitez's curfew and his ankle monitor.

In addition to going to Disney World, he said he loves the Bears and plans to go to a Bears game and spend time with his sister in Arkansas.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Cook County State's Attorney wrote in part, "After determining that we would not be able to sustain our burden of proof if this case was retried, today in the interest of justice, we asked the court to dismiss the criminal case involving Francisco Benitez and the court granted our request."