TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - A federal judge threw out the murder conviction against John Myers. In 2006, a Morgan County, Indiana jury convicted Myers of murdering Jill Behrman. She turned up missing on May 31, 2000, during a bike ride near Bloomington. Behrman was an Indiana University student. Her remains were not discovered for three years.
Judge James Sweeney II granted what's called a petition for writ of habeas corpus that challenged Myers's murder conviction. In short, Myers claimed his lawyer provided him ineffective representation during his trial. Judge Sweeney came to this conclusion in spite of Myers losing in the Court of Appeals as well as post-conviction relief proceedings.
Judge Sweeney found that defense counsel for Myers provided two false statements to the jury during opening statements. Counsel also did not provide objections against two major categories of evidence that should not have been presented to the jury, including Bloodhound evidence. Judge Sweeney said these errors "all but destroyed the defense that trial counsel provided to the jury and tainted the entire trial."
The judge also found that Myers consistently denied murdering Behrman, nor had anything to do with her disappearance.
The State of Indiana now has 120 days to retry Mr. Myers. Otherwise, he's ordered to be released from custody. Myers has been serving a 65-year prison sentence, most recently being held at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. His earliest release date had been set for June 8th of 2037.
In his order, Judge Sweeney acknowledged that "a new trial will come only at a considerable cost - to the State, yes, but more importantly, to the victim's family and community still wounded by this tragic loss. Such costs do not enter into the constitutional analysis; and yet, the Court cannot help but express its empathy for those who must bear them for the sake of our Constitution and its protections."
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