INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A man convicted in the killing of an Indiana University student in 2000 must be released from prison and remain free while his case is pending before an appeals court, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Court Judge James Sweeney in Indianapolis ordered John Myers II released from prison on June 15, following a 14-day quarantine. Sweeney ruled Friday that Myers, 44, must stay at his mother’s house and will have to wear an electronic monitor.
Myers was convicted in 2006 in the killing of Jill Behrman and sentenced to 65 years in prison. Behrman, an IU sophomore, was 19 when she disappeared in May 2000 while on a bicycle ride near Bloomington. Her fate was a mystery until hunters found her remains in 2003 in Morgan County, north of Bloomington. She had been shot in the back of her head.
Investigators concluded that Myers, who lived in Ellettsville, a town about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from IU’s campus, killed Behrman out of anger over a failed relationship.
In September, Sweeney vacated Myers' conviction after finding that his legal representation during his murder trial was so ineffective that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated. The judge's order gave a 120-day deadline for his release, but that was later extended after the Indiana attorney general's office appealed the order.
That appeal to the September ruling was heard in the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago last week.
Sweeney said in his order that it's likely that the appeals court will uphold his decision to release Myers from prison based on the mistakes his lawyer made during trial that may have contributed to Myers’ conviction.
Myers' appellate attorneys have argued that his lawyers made several mistakes that prejudiced the jury against him before he was convicted in Behrman's death.
Myers had sought his release because a medication he takes weakens his immune system and leaves him more susceptible to the coronavirus, according to Sweeney's ruling.
The order specifies that Myers must have no contact with Behrman's family.
Her mother, Marilyn Behrman, said the order is upsetting and unbelievable.
“The timing couldn’t be worse,” she told the Indiana Daily Student on Sunday.
Brian Behrman, Jill Behrman’s brother, said in Facebook post on Friday that the case against Myers “was circumstantial" but he added that “there was a wide variety of evidence that led a jury of 12 peers to find Myers guilty.”
“Once again, our system silences victims. It silences those who care for those who are lost. My sister didn’t get to be present for my wedding. My children will never know their Aunt Jill’s voice or laugh. And the system doesn’t allow anyone to speak for her at this time," he said in his post.