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Last updated on Wednesday, April 24, 2013
(MARTINSVILLE) - The man convicted of killing Indiana University coed Jill Behrman in 2000 arrived in a Morgan County courtroom in shackles Tuesday morning to hear his attorneys argue that his original trial lawyer was incompetent.
John Myers is serving a 65 year sentence for killing Behrman, who left home on a bicycle ride on May 31, 2000. Several years later her remains were found in a rural Morgan County area. Behrman suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
Myers was represented at trial by attorney Pat Baker.
His current lawyers argue that Baker improperly solicited Myers inside the Morgan County Jail, misled jurors during the trial and mistakenly told his indigent defendant that he would have to pay for an appeal. In court documents, Myers' attorneys allege five pages of oversights, errors and failings committed by Baker.
The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Baker's law license for six months in 2011.
Retired Bloomington Police Detective Marty Deckard took the stand, answering questions about an informant, Wendy Ownings, who claimed at various points to have been present during Behrman's murder.
Owings' story was later discredited after investigators drained Monroe County's Salt Creek where she claimed evidence was disposed.
Jill Behrman's father Eric was among the first to testify Tuesday. He told the court, "I was doing everything I could as a father to find my daughter."
Prohibited from speaking outside court, the family asked Indiana State Police Trooper Sgt. Curt Durnil to speak for them.
"I think they, like everyone else, want justice," Durnil said.
In court, defense attorneys are trying to cast doubt on the police investigation, put new light on unused evidence and other possible suspects.
Uriah Clouse, who was initially suspected of involvement in the murder, testified he had nothing to do with her death. Clouse testified as part of Myers' petition for post-conviction relief that police harassed him and didn't believe his alibi indicating he wasn't involved in Behrman's death.
Two state public defenders allege Myers' trial attorney disregarded evidence indicating Clouse was in a vehicle that struck Behrman.
The defense is expected to take the rest of the week presenting their case. Prosecutors will argue why they don't believe a new trial is necessary.
Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega says that the defense will attempt to re-try the case and ask questions and flesh out alternative theories that Baker ignored during the original trial.
If Myers' attorneys convince Judge G. Thomas Gray that their client was misrepresented during trial, they can then petition the Indiana Court of Appeals to order a re-trial or overturn the jury's verdict.
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