(MARTINSVILLE) - John Myers, who was convicted of killing Jill Behrman in 2000 has spent more than six years at the Indiana State Prison for a murder he says he did not commit, blaming his conviction in the killing of 19-year-old Jill Behrman in part on his lawyer's ineffective representation.
Laura Lane of the Herald-Times reports that two attorneys from the Indiana Public Defender's Office assigned to Myers' case have been working to construct an appeal of his 2006 conviction for murder. What is called a petition for post-conviction relief can be filed in cases where defendants claim their lawyers failed to adequately represent them. According to the statute, a judicial case review is available when "there exists evidence of material facts, not previously presented and heard, that requires vacation of the conviction or sentence in the interest of justice."
Myers' post-conviction relief hearing before Morgan Superior Court Judge G. Thomas Gray is set to begin this morning in Martinsville and is expected to continue through the week. Myers' attorneys have indicated they might enter up to 200 exhibits into evidence. Gray was not the presiding judge at Myers' trial.
Myers, now 37, was indicted by members of a grand jury who heard testimony from nearly 100 witnesses before handing down a murder charge. A sequestered jury then listened to mostly circumstantial evidence during a two-week trial before finding Myers guilty. His sentence: 65 years, the maximum prison term for murder in Indiana. Myers' earliest possible release date is April 7, 2038, 25 years down the road.
Behrman, who grew up in Bloomington, disappeared while on a long bike ride on May 31, 2000. Frantic family members and friends, and an entire community, searched for months, then years.
Then, nearly three years after the Indiana University student went missing, a father and son out turkey hunting discovered Behrman's skeletal remains in a wooded area near Paragon. Shotgun pellets were found inside her skull and at the scene. She had been shot to death. She would be 32 years old if she had lived her attack.
During the time she was missing, a woman came forth and implicated herself and two others in the killing, saying they had struck Behrman while driving and had thrown her body into a Lake Monroe tributary. A section of Salt Creek was drained and searched to no avail. But when Behrman's body was found miles from there in Morgan County, the woman recanted and said she had lied.
Myers' public defenders are expected to bring that up. Their post-conviction-relief petition also indicates they will challenge the legal abilities of Patrick V. Baker, an Indianapolis defense lawyer who offered to represent Myers without charge.
In October 2011, the Indiana Supreme Court's disciplinary commission suspended Baker from the practice of law for six months, saying he could apply for reinstatement if there was "clear and convincing evidence of the attorney's remorse, rehabilitation and fitness to practice law."
The commission members determined that in the Myers case, Baker violated five of the state's Rules of Professional Conduct. A hearing officer ruled Baker violated the rules by soliciting Myers as a client and also by misleading jurors while providing no proof to shore up his allegations. He also violated three other rules by telling Myers' family they had to pay for appeal-related costs when they did not have to because Myers was indigent.
A judge had initially appointed Morgan County defense attorney William Van Der Pol as a public defender to represent Myers. But on the morning of Myers' first court appearance, Baker visited Myers at the Morgan County Jail and offered his legal counsel for free.
Eric Behrman, Jill Behrman's father, said he will be present for the post-conviction relief hearing.
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