PEORIA — Two McLean County judges are not entitled to immunity from claims in a federal lawsuit accusing them of misconduct that allegedly contributed to the wrongful conviction of Alan Beaman on murder charges.
U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade ruled that Charles Reynard and James Souk will remain as defendants in the federal lawsuit filed in 2010 alleging that the two former prosecutors conspired with several police officers to frame Beaman for the killing of Jennifer Lockmiller, his former girlfriend. The victim was found in 1993 in her apartment near Illinois State University, Normal.
Beaman was arrested after an investigation conducted by Normal police officers Tim Freesmeyer, Rob Hospelhorn, Dave Warner and Frank Zayas. John Brown with the McLean County Sheriff’s Department also worked on the investigation with then-State’s Attorney Reynard and prosecutor Souk. All are named in the lawsuit along with the town of Normal and McLean County.
Beaman served 13 years of a 50-year-sentence for Lockmiller’s murder while his family and defense lawyers worked continually on petitions to secure his release. In May 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned his conviction and the McLean County state’s attorney’s office later dismissed charges.
In his ruling released Monday, McDade accepted a recommendation from federal Magistrate Judge Byron Cudmore that Souk and Reynard were immune from claims related to their work on the case after Beaman was arrested but may be held liable for the role they played during the months prior to his arrest. The prosecutors attended daily police meetings and were involved in investigative decisions.
Souk and Reynard have not commented on the lawsuit because ethics rules prohibit judges from speaking to the media about pending cases.
The immunity decision was described as rare by Alexa Brunt, one of Beaman’s lawyers with the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law.
“In most cases, prosecutors are given immunity. What set this case apart was that they were so intimately involved with the investigation for such a long period of time,” said Brunt.
The lawsuit accuses the former prosecutors and police of withholding evidence that could have helped Beaman’s defense, specifically information about another viable suspect known as John Doe, also a former boyfriend of Lockmiller who supplied her with drugs and had no alibi during the time of the murder, according to Beaman’s claims.
No trial date has been set for the federal lawsuit that now moves to the discovery phase that includes depositions of those named in the litigation.
Beaman also is seeking a certificate of innocence from the state and a pardon from the governor in his efforts to clear his name.