- Natalie Krebs/Medill
- Ariel Gomez
The night the Bulls nailed down their fifth NBA championship—June 13, 1997—a rowdy crowd gathered to celebrate at the intersection of Cicero and Diversey. Shots were fired. Concepcion Diaz, 32, a husband and father who’d finished work and was waiting for a bus home, was mortally wounded. A few hours later police arrested five teenage boys who’d been cruising the scene in a car. All were charged with murder. Three were eventually acquitted, and three years later the sentence of the fourth was reduced on appeal and he was freed. The fifth, Ariel Gomez, remains in prison for murder.
Last December the Medill Innocence Project posted on its website the results of a ten-week investigation into Gomez’s case by seven Northwestern students. They’d raised what the site called “serious questions” about Gomez’s conviction.
On Wednesday the Innocence Project did something remarkable. It posted new material on Gomez that challenges his claim that he’s innocent. The widow of Diaz is interviewed. “If he’s innocent, or not innocent, God will forgive him. It doesn’t matter to me,” she says. And a long-lost witness is tracked down, the only one of the four other teens in the car whom Medill students hadn’t already interviewed.
““He’s guilty,” he tells the Innocence Project. “He is guilty, and this is coming from a longtime friend.”
The Medill students haven’t reversed themselves here. Diaz’s widow has no new light to shed on the crime beyond conveying her ongoing loss and sadness. There are all sorts of inconsistencies in the account of the new witness, and the website points them out.
But it’s hard to see how the new material will do Gomez’s cause any good. Prosecutors welcome any excuse for letting sleeping dogs lie and murder convictions go unrevisited.