A Cook County judge has granted the release of Ronnie Carrasquillo, who has been in prison for over 40 years for the murder of Chicago police officer Terrence Loftus. Associate Judge Alfredo Maldonado resentenced Carrasquillo to time served for the October 1976 shooting. While acknowledging that Carrasquillo was not innocent and praising Loftus as a hero, Maldonado stated that he believed Carrasquillo had changed and made significant strides in rehabilitation.
Carrasquillo, now 65 years old, briefly addressed the court before the ruling, expressing that he had corrected himself as much as he could. Following the hearing, Carrasquillo was released from Cook County Jail and greeted by a large group of family and friends. When asked about his plans, he stated his intention to help people live and bring them to spiritualism through God and the church.
In August, an Illinois appellate court vacated Carrasquillo’s original sentence and ordered a resentencing, citing his upbringing and maturity level at the time of the crime as factors that should allow him a meaningful opportunity for release. The court emphasized that Carrasquillo’s excessive sentence threatened the effectiveness of the parole system, as he had demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.
The decision to release Carrasquillo has been met with mixed reactions. John Catanzara, president of the Chicago Police Department’s largest union, who opposed Carrasquillo’s release, left the courtroom promptly after the announcement. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office did not oppose Carrasquillo’s release.
Carrasquillo’s lawyers highlighted his rehabilitation efforts, including mentoring and starting programs for other incarcerated individuals. They also noted that Carrasquillo had started programs while in prison at the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center, which prepares inmates for reentry into society.
The case has drawn attention to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board and its perceived shift in granting parole to older individuals who have been incarcerated for decades. Carrasquillo had been denied parole multiple times before the resentencing.
Carrasquillo was sentenced under an old law that allowed for indeterminate sentences, resulting in life imprisonment. His lawyers opted for him to be resentenced under newer laws that would require him to serve 20 to 60 years for murder.