MORGAN COUNTY — The man convicted in the murder of an Indiana University student back in 2000 is set to be released from prison because he didn't have proper representation during the trial.
John Myers was convicted in the murder of Jill Behrman, 19, in Morgan County in October, 2006, following a 12-day jury trial. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison.
Behrman disappeared in May 2000 after leaving her Bloomington home to go for a bike ride. Her remains were found three years later.
In the ruling handed down Monday by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the court ruled that Myers received "ineffective assistance of counsel at trial in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights."
The ruling means Myers must be released from prison unless the Morgan County Prosecutor's Office decides to retry him within 120 days.
Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega issued the following statement:
We have received notice of the Federal Court of Appeals decision granting the Defendant’s Writ of Habeas Corpus. I have been in contact with the victim’s parents, Eric and Marilyn Behrman, as well as the lead investigator, Detective (Ret.) Rick Lang.
Needless to say, we are all disappointed with this outcome as we believed that after 13 years, the jury’s guilty verdict was final. I have spoken with the Indiana Attorney’s General’s Office and they are just analyzing the opinion and its ramifications. Thus, it is premature to discuss the next step in the case. However, I do plan on meeting with the victims and the investigator before any decision is made.
The ruling states that Myers' attorney made false statements to the jury during opening arguments, which that attorney later admitted to in a disciplinary hearing. The ruling also claims that Myers' attorney failed to object to "two significant categories of evidence that should not have been presented to the jury."
"In the end, these serious errors all but destroyed the defense that trial counsel presented to the jury and tainted the entire trial," the ruling read.
According to the ruling, Myers named 13 ways he says his attorney failed him during trial, although the courts ruled that only three of the reasons given by Myers were deficient: "he made two false statements to the jury during opening, he failed to object to inadmissible bloodhound evidence, and he failed to object to evidence that Ms. Behrman was raped before she was murdered."
Patrick Baker, Myers' attorney, released the following statement Tuesday night:
Our legal team initially took on Mr. Myers’ murder case in April of 2006 pro bono because we believed in his innocence, as we still do. We fight for the Constitutional rights of our clients, and when necessary, take on difficult and unpopular causes in the interest of justice. We are very pleased the Court’s Order has given John Myers and his family renewed hope. We express our heartfelt sympathies to the Behrman family and will continue to pray for all involved.
Jill Behrman's mother, Marilyn, tells RTV6 she will work with the Morgan County Prosecutor to determine what the best decision for her and her family is, moving forward.
"I will take this one day, one moment at a time. I will go whoever this leads and deal with it. I am disappointed with this ruling, but this is out of my control," Marilyn Behrman said. "I will count on Morgan County Prosecutor, Steve Sonnega, to help guide me through this process, whether that be an appeal leading to a new trial or not. I am more concerned with the emotional toll this will take on family and friends.”