Man convicted of killing IU student Behrman denied SCOTUS review

The man convicted in the murder of Indiana University student Jill Behrman more than 20 years ago will remain in prison after the United States Supreme Court denied cert in his habeas case.

The justices denied John Myers’ petition for writ of certiorari in their Monday orders. The case is Myers v. Neal, 20-1134.

Myers was tried in 2006 for the murder of Behrman, an accomplished cyclist who went missing during a bike ride in 2000. Her body was found three years later.

Myers sought Supreme Court review after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned habeas relief granted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Indiana Southern District Judge James Sweeney ruled in October 2019 that Myers’ trial counsel was prejudicially deficient when he made false statements to the jury during opening statements and failed to object to two categories of evidence: bloodhound evidence and evidence that Behrman was raped before her death. Sweeney later ordered Myers’ release from prison in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,  but the 7th Circuit blocked his release.

The appellate court then reinstated Myers’ murder conviction in August 2020, finding that although his counsel was deficient, Myers was not prejudiced.

“The incriminating statements Myers made to so many different people following Behrman’s disappearance make all the difference in determining whether defense counsel’s errors substantially affected the outcome of the trial,” Judge Michael Scudder wrote in August. “… Aside from these statements to family members, the jury heard from an array of friends, acquaintances, and community members recalling similar comments.

“… Our examination of the record leaves us of the firm conviction that even without counsel’s errors, the jury would have reached the same conclusion and found John Myers guilty of murdering Jill Behrman,” Scudder wrote. “Because of the strength of the evidence presented at trial, our confidence in the jury’s decision is not undermined.”

The 7th Circuit later denied rehearing and rehearing en banc in Myers’ case. However, the appellate court remanded to allow Myers to pursue allegations of withheld evidence.

In a cert petition, Myers’ legal team raised on question: “Whether the Seventh Circuit erred by holding, in conflict with at least four other courts of appeals, that to establish prejudice under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), a criminal defendant must show that if the evidence tainted by the deficient performance of his defense counsel is ignored, then there would not be substantial evidence to support a conviction.”

Myers was represented at the high court by lawyers with Jenner & Block LLP in Chicago and Washington, D.C. The state waived its right to respond to Myers’ petition.

The justices denied cert without comment or explanation, as is customary.

Online records show that Myers is incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. He is serving a 65-year sentence, with his earliest projected release date set for June 2037.

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