BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — A Bloomington man convicted in 1999 for the 1998 murder of his daughter has a slim chance of being exonerated for the crime.
A judge ruled Barton McNeil will receive a hearing on one piece of newly found evidence that could help him in his fight for exoneration. In a written statement, Judge William Yoder ruled a hearing is necessary to evaluate claims that McNeil’s ex-girlfriend Misook Nowlin admitted to murdering McNeil’s daughter, Christina.
The State conceded this claim in its motion to dismiss.
However, Judge Yoder sided with the state on all other claims of innocence including newly found DNA evidence. Yoder ruled it is not “conclusive evidence” that would change likely change the result of a trial.
McNeil is serving a 99 year prison sentence for the suffocation death of his daughter Christina in 1998. Since then, McNeil has maintained no wrongdoing and has continued to fight for a new trial.
McNeil has always pinned the crime on Nowlin, who–13 years after his daughter’s death–killed her mother-in-law in an unrelated killing. Judge Yoder ruled that is merely an “interesting fact” and “is in no way relevant to the defendant’s claim of actual innocence.”
The Illinois Innocence Project and Illinois Exoneration Project both currently represent McNeil. Those projects take on less than 5% of cases presented to them.
Chris Ross, Barton McNeil’s cousin and advocate issued a written statement slamming Yoder and his decision.
“The judges ruling, that should never have taken this long, is both appalling and egregious,” stated Ross.
Ross’ statement also reads, “Judge William Yoder has now put a blight and stain on the county of McLean and the entire American criminal justice system and how we citizens believe it should work. “
WMBD reached out to McLean County State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds who did not return our call as of this writing.