Illinois Supreme Court allows trial for Alan Beaman after claims of misconduct

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — In Alan Beaman’s attempt to sue the Town of Normal and three police officers for malicious prosecution, the Illinois Supreme Court again overturned the appeals court.

Beaman is alleged to have strangled his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller, a student at Illinois State University at the time, by using the cord of a clock radio in her apartment in 1992. A 50-year sentence he had been serving for 13 years was overturned on appeal when he was convicted in 1995. Beaman has since been granted a certificate of innocence, with then-Gov. Pat Quinn issuing a pardon.

The McLean County Circuit Court is now going to hear the case, seven years after it originally was filed, following a 4-2 ruling from the justices.

The town of Normal, as well as former detectives Tim Freesmeyer, Frank Zayas, and Dave Warner, have been sued multiple times by Beaman for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy. Beaman also has sought damages from the defendant and the town.

In two separate decisions, the court ruled that Beaman was on the wrong side of the law, the police investigation was carried out in good faith, and that the prosecution was reasonable.

Under the presumption of a good faith effort, cities and police departments are usually exempt from liability. Justices David Overstreet, Robert Carter, and Anne M. Burke, along with Justice P. Scott Neville Jr., wrote the opinion that “there are genuine questions of material fact whether Beaman will be able to prove his claim of malicious prosecution.”

The opinion also stated that an objective jury could determine that defendants in this case intentionally ignored, shaped, interpreted, or created evidence to support their conclusion that Beaman was guilty. As a result, Beaman is entitled to a jury trial to determine whether the detectives acted maliciously.

“We find that there are genuine issues of material fact regarding defendants’ intent and, therefore, defendants’ right to summary judgment is not clear and free from doubt as a matter of law,” according to the ruling.

The defense argued that the officers were only doing their jobs and that it was up to the prosecutors to decide whether to charge them. Justices said police must also let the prosecution proceed.

Among the opposing judges were Justice Michael Burke and Justice Rita Garman. A probable cause defense is a shield to Beaman’s claims according to Burke. Burke agreed that another alleged offender was a probable suspect, though he believed Beaman was more likely to be the offender.

Michael Burke wrote, “First, Beaman’s fingerprints were on the clock radio, which showed he had the means to commit the offense. Second, Beaman exhibited an undisputed pattern of violence toward Lockmiller in reaction to her alleged infidelity, which showed motive. Third, the time trials showed he had a narrow opportunity to commit the murder… Although the totality of the circumstances known to defendants at the time of the arrest must be viewed in the light most favorable to Beaman, I conclude no question of fact on the absence-of-probable-cause element remains.”

Those representing the city and former detectives may request that the high court reconsider.

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