BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — An attorney for John Myers, the Ellettsville man convicted in the murder of Indiana University coed Jill Behrman, was back in federal court Wednesday morning arguing for a new trial.
Lindsey Lusk told U.S. District Judge James Sweeney that investigators failed to turn over 8,000 pages of FBI and Bloomington Police Department documents related to the disappearance of the 19-year-old woman on a bicycle ride on May 31 of 2000 and the subsequent investigation into her murder.
Behrman’s body was found in Morgan County in 2003, and Myers was convicted three years later and sentenced to 65 years in prison.
Lusk argued that if the documents and their findings were turned over to Myers’ attorneys and introduced at trial, it’s reasonable to assume that at least one juror would have maintained doubt about the evidence and rendered a not guilty vote that at very least would have resulted in a hung jury.
The attorney argued exculpatory evidence would have included that five witnesses believed they spotted Behrman riding south from her Bloomington home, not north as the prosecution theorized which would have sent her in Myers’ direction, and that the jury was not aware of three people who confessed or were considered suspects in the murder but later cleared by police.
Myers is represented by Jenner & Block Partner Clifford Berlow, who said:
“The evidence shows the State of Indiana did not turn over more than 8,000 pages of Bloomington Police Department and FBI files to Mr. Myers prior to trial. And powerful evidence in those files casts serious doubt on Mr. Myers’ guilt. We believe that when the Court reviews those materials it will come to the only possible conclusion: that Mr. Myers did not receive a fair trial and was wrongfully convicted.”
The State maintains that Myers’ lawyer, Patrick Baker, did receive at least some of the information and raised the issues referred to during the trial.
Baker was later sanctioned for inappropriate professional practices regarding the case.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that while Myers’ original trial counsel was questionable, the evidence presented by Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega was strong enough to result in the conviction.
Lusk argued that the 7th Circuit judges based that opinion on the limited knowledge of the case before them and were not aware of the allegedly missing documents.
She told the court that any “hypothetical trial record” (if the documents were used) must be considered to be favorable to John Myers’ reasonable doubt.
Sonnega declined comment as he left the courthouse.
Lusk predicted that no matter which side Sweeney comes down on, the decision would be further appealed.
The judge took the case under advisement.
Myers is serving his time at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City and is eligible for parole in 2037.