Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

Rolando Cruz

First NameRolando
Last NameCruz
Year of Conviction1985
Year of Exoneration1995
Testing inculpated culpritNon-Cold Hit
State of ConvictionIllinois
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty Plea3 Trials
Type of CrimeRape and Murder
Death SentenceYes
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeHispanic
Type of Innocence Defense
  • Alibi
Description / Quotes from Testimony Concerning Defense

● Defendant’s sister testified that defendant was babysitting her children at the time of the crime.

Did the defendant testify at trial?No
Types of evidence at trial
  • Confession
  • Forensic Evidence
  • Informant
Were non-public facts alleged?Yes
Type of Forensic Evidence
  • Shoe print
Types of Flawed Forensics
  • Not Disclosed
  • Valid (Excluded)
Brief Quote / Description of Testimony

Latent fingerprints sufficient for comparison were all found to exclude defendant and co-defendant. It later came to light that boot print evidence, concerning the fact that the print did not in fact match a co-defendant, was not disclosed to the defense.

Examples of Non-Public or Corroborated Facts and Inconsistencies

● Victim’s nose was broken (in taped confession) In statement Cruz gave describing a “vision”: ● the victim’s head was bashed from behind ● the victim’s head formed an imprint in the mud; ● the victim had been raped anally

Quotes from law enforcement testimony

Q: During that period of time, from the first time that you made contact with Rolando Cruz, up until the time that he has gone through and related the vision to both you and Detective Kurzawa, had you or Detective Kurzawa every related any of the facts that he put in the vision to you? A (Vosburgh): No. We wanted to keep all of those off of the street; any knowledge about the crime scene, we wanted to keep that to ourselves.

Quotes from prosecution arguments

And he [Cruz] tells him in this vision, she was anally assaulted. There’s no way to know that information. He knows it because he was there… Who knows that is somebody who was standing right there when that stomping was occurring, and she was being hit, and she was smashed right on the spot. That’s who knows that. But it came to him (Cruz) in a vision.

Interrogation RecordedAudio recording of part of interrogation
Jailhouse informant, Co-defendant, Incentivized WitnessIW, J
Examples of Non-Public or Corroborated Facts and Inconsistencies● Three jailhouse informants each claimed to have overheard admissions of varying detail. ● Non-incarcerated cooperating witness also claimed to have overheard admissions. ● Cruz was also reported to have confessed and implicated codefendant Hernandez.
Quotes from testimony #3

Non-incarcerated cooperating witness testified: “He told me he wasn’t involved at all with the girl getting killed,” but that “he was there” – and that the body was dumped “off a road, yeah. He didn’t have to tell me because I already read about it,” and he admitted “I already knew that from the news. I knew what road and everything.” First jailhouse informant testified Cruz said he “kind of killed” a girl in Aurora, that “something” had happened and he had left something “stashed” there. Second jailhouse informant claimed that Cruz had confessed to abducting a victim with his codefendants, taking her to a drug dealer’s house in Aurora, overhearing Hernandez sexually assaulting her, the victim fell down wooden stairs, and then they killed her Third jailhouse informant, who testified at the second trial, said that defendant admitted that he, Hernandez and “someone named Dugan” burglarized a home, found a young girl inside, took her in the back seat of a car to a lightly wooded area, raped her, and then killed her outside the car by hitting her on the head with a crowbar.

Quotes regarding any deal or leniency with informant, or prior use of informant

First jailhouse informant denied receiving any preferential sentencing in return for his testimony, yet he conceded that he had received two five-year concurrent sentences for two burglary charges and numerous other burglary charges were “possibly” dropped less than two weeks after he reported his conversation with defendant to authorities. As for second jailhouse informant, evidence of his convictions and psychiatric treatment was admitted, but evidence that his offenses involved the theft of human body parts was excluded. Third jailhouse informant contacted State while his own appeal was pending. He wrote a letter to the Attorney General stating that he had information about eight death row inmates’ cases, including the defendant’s. He wrote, “[T]hese people have told me what happened in their cases, although most of them will not get a new trial, but one may never know.” He denied telling other inmates that he would “get time” off for informing on Cruz. He agreed that, on his resentencing, he would like the judge to be aware that he had cooperated in defendant’s case. THe denied, however, being offered any promises of leniency in exchange for testimony. An Assistant State’s Attorney would later testify on his behalf at the resentencing hearing, saying that he had “voluntarily provided testimony in the trial of Rolando Cruz” and was cooperative.

Highest level reachedNR
Claims Raised During All Appeals and Postconviction
  • Bruton
  • Prosecutorial Misconduct
Claims granted, resulting in preexon. reversal
  • Bruton
  • Prosecutorial Misconduct
  • State Law Evidence Claim
Harmless Error Rulings
  • G
Citations to judicial opinions

People v. Cruz, 521 N.E.2d 18 (Ill. 1988)
Illinois v. Cruz, 488 U.S. 869 (1988)
People v. Cruz, 1992 WL 356036 (Ill. Dec. 4, 1992)
People v. Cruz, 643 N.E.2d 636 (Ill. 1994)

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