Apr 10 2012

Two Judges Who Are Former Prosecutors Lose Effort To Dismiss Alan Beaman’s Lawsuit

Alan Beaman after his release in June 2008 (Rockford Register-Star)

Alan Beaman after his release in June 2008 (Rockford Register-Star)

Alan Beaman’s conviction was overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court and he was released in 2008 after more than 14 years of wrongful incarceration for a former girlfriend’s murder. A U.S. District Court judge has refused to dismiss Beaman’s federal civil rights lawsuit that includes claims against his two prosecutors who are now judges.

Beaman was living in Normal, Illinois in July 1993 when he split-up with his girlfriend Jennifer Lockmiller. He then moved 140 miles away to Rockford, Illinois and began living at his mother’s house.

About a month later, Lockmiller was murdered in her apartment in Normal at about 12 p.m. (noon) on August 25.

Beaman became the focus of the police investigation, and in May 1994 he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He was 21.

During Beaman’s 1995 trial the prosecution’s case was circumstantial because he didn’t confess to Lockmiller’s murder, and there was no physical, forensic or eyewitness evidence directly tying him to the crime.

Beaman’s alibi defense was that on the day of Lockmiller’s murder he got off work from his job at 9 a.m.; went home; then went and made a deposit at his bank in Rockford (a bank security video showed him leaving at 10:11 a.m.); returned home with phone records showing calls made Beaman’s home to his church at 10:37 a.m. and to the home of the church’s director of music at 10:39 a.m. (Beaman played music at the church and a rehearsal was scheduled for that night); and that he and his car were home when his mother returned by 2:16 p.m. His mother testified that she left her house at about 7 a.m. on August 25 to take her mother to the doctor and shopping, and she had receipts from Wal-Mart and other stores up to 2:03 p.m., when she testified she bought perishable items at a grocery store and drove straight to her home that was 9 to 13 minutes travel time from the store.

Jennifer Lockmiller, Illinois State University student murdered on August 25, 1993

Jennifer Lockmiller, Illinois State University student murdered on August 25, 1993

Beaman’s lawyer argued to the jury that given the times of his known whereabouts in Rockford it was “practically impossible” that he could have murdered Lockmiller at noon in Normal 140 miles away.

The prosecution argued to the jury — without presenting any evidence — that Beaman left for Normal directly from the bank at 10:11 a.m., arrived around noon, killed Lockmiller, and then drove back to Rockford and arrived home minutes before his mother returned at 2:16 p.m. The prosecution also argued, based on testimony by the lead police investigator Timothy Freesmeyer, that it took longer than 26 minutes to drive from Beaman’s bank to his home, so he couldn’t have made the phone calls at 10:37 and 10:39 a.m.

The jury convicted Beaman of first-degree murder, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison, and his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal.

It was discovered after Beaman’s appeal that the prosecution failed to disclose two key pieces of evidence to his trial lawyer. First, there was another prime suspect: an ex-boyfriend of Lockmiller’s identified as John Doe that she owed money to for drugs, who lived 1-1/2 miles from her, who had no alibi for the time of her murder, who failed to complete a polygraph examination, and whose behavior was erratic at the time of her murder because of steroids he was taking. Second, the police conducted a timed run from Beaman’s bank to his house that proved he easily could have made it home to make the calls at 10:37 and 10:39 a.m. after leaving the bank at 10:11 a.m.

Illinois Circuit Court Judge James Souk (www.McLeanCountyIl.gov, April 2012)

Illinois Circuit Court Judge James Souk (www.McLeanCountyIl.gov, April 2012)

Beaman filed a post-conviction habeas corpus petition and the Illinois Supreme Court overturned his conviction in May 2008, based on the prosecution’s Brady violations of failing to disclose the evidence about the suspect John Doe and the time it took to drive from his bank to his home. The Court ruled that had the jury known that evidence there is a reasonable probability their verdict would have been different. (See, People v. Beaman, 890 NE 2d 500, 229 Ill. 2d 56, 321 Ill. Dec. 778 (Ill Supreme Court, 2008)) Beaman was released on $250,000 bail a month later, and the charges were dismissedin January 2009.

Beaman’s prosecutors were James Souk and Charles G. Reynard. In 1997 Souk was appointed as an associate McLean County (11th Judicial Circuit) Circuit Court judge, and he was elected as a Circuit Court judge in 2002. Reynard was also elected as a Circuit Court judge in 2002.

In 2010 Beaman filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that named as defendants: Souk, Reynard, Freesmeyer, four former Normal police officers, McLean County Illinois and Town of Normal, Illinois. Among its claims the lawsuit alleged the defendants violated Beaman’s federal constitutional right to due process by: withholding exculpatory evidence with respect to John Doe and the time it took to travel from the bank to Beaman’s house; engaging in a conspiracy to deprive Beaman of the exculpatory evidence; failing to intervene to prevent violations of his constitutional rights; that they maliciously prosecuted Beaman in violation of state law; that they engaged in a civil conspiracy in violation of state law; and that they intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

Illinois Circuit Court Judge Charles G. Reynard (www.McLeanCountyIl.gov, April 2012)

Illinois Circuit Court Judge Charles G. Reynard (www.McLeanCountyIl.gov, April 2012)

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, and on March 26, 2012 U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade granted the motion as to several of the claims related to Souk and Reynard’s absolute immunity for actions they took during Beaman’s prosecution. However, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent a prosecutor is not immune from being sued for actions they take during the investigation of a case. Consequently, Judge McDade did not dismiss Beaman’s key claims that Souk and Reynard were civilly liable for their active involvement in the investigation that preceded Beaman’s trial, because“Souk and Reynard began committing the investigative misconduct in issue here eight months before Plaintiff’s arrest and a full 18 months before Plaintiff went to trial on the wrongful charges.”

As a result of Judge McDade’s ruling Beaman’s most important claims against Freesmeyer, Souk, Reynard, McLean County and the Town of Normal remain, but resolution of the lawsuit could still be several years away.

You can read Judge McDade’s ruling by clicking here.

Souk has announced that he is retiring in December 2012 after 15 years as a Circuit Court judge.

Beaman has a pending petition for a pardon by Illinois’ governor based on his innocence. The pardon would qualify Beaman for state compensation of about $170,000. Beaman also has a pending petition for a certificate of innocence.

Hans Sherrer
Justice Denied

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