February 25, 2020

Exonerated Man Returns to Illinois Supreme Court for Right to Sue Cops who Framed Him

Alan Beaman spent 13 years behind bars despite being 130 miles away at time of crime

ILLINOIS – On Tuesday, Alan Beaman returns to the Illinois Supreme Court, 12 years since it handed down his exoneration, to ask for leave to pursue a jury trial against the Town of Normal and the three former police officers who spearheaded his wrongful conviction.

“I’ve spent my adult life fighting for justice and accountability. I’m not stopping now,” said Beaman. “The idea that his lawsuit somehow threatens good cops is inherently flawed. Protecting malicious cops from accountability undermines public faith in the rule of law.”

Beaman spent over a decade in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the 1993 murder of his ex-girlfriend. At the time of the crime, Beaman was 130 miles away. Despite an ironclad alibi, Normal police labeled him the prime suspect and began inventing a case against him. In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out Beaman’s conviction, ruling that McClean County State’s Attorney had failed to disclose evidence regarding another suspect in the case.  Beaman later received a certificate of innocence and a pardon.

 Last year, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed, for a second time, an appellate court ruling in Beaman’s case. The appellate court had denied Beaman’s malicious prosecution claims against Normal, Illinois police detectives. Beaman’s lawsuit contends that these officers intentionally withheld evidence, including information regarding more likely suspects, and engaged in a bad-faith misconduct designed to pin the crime on him, regardless of the truth.

In reversing the appellate court in the last round of the case, the Supreme Court held that officers can be liable for malicious prosecution when their bad faith misconduct causes a wrongful conviction. Beaman argues that the appellate court has subsequently disregarded this finding, as well as ignoring evidence of false testimony and concealment of evidence.

“Instead of letting the facts go before a jury to let them decide, the appellate court drew their own inferences to excuse the officers’ misconduct,” said Beaman.

During his criminal trial, one of the named officers, Timothy Freesmeyer, worked full time out of the prosecutors’ office on Beaman’s case, through his trial and conviction. After a 50 year sentence was handed down, prosecutors credited the victory to him, stating that ‘beyond any question in my mind, this case would not have been won without Tim Freesmeyer’.

“We are hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court, which has twice ruled in Alan’s favor, will hear the case again and finally allow a jury trial to go forward,” said David Shapiro, MacArthur Justice Center’s Supreme Court and Appellate Director, one of Beaman’s lawyers. “Nothing can right the wrong that was done to him or remove the stain it has left on the history of our state, but the closest thing to it is a jury of Illinois citizens finally hearing his case.”

The appellate ruling argued that Beaman did not satisfy the legal requirements for a malicious prosecution case – namely that there were no earlier findings of insufficient evidence.

Beaman asks the court leave to appeal this decision because it not only contradicts several federal decisions, it would radically change state law by holding that a wrongfully-convicted plaintiff automatically loses a malicious prosecution claim unless a court made a finding of insufficient evidence for the conviction in the criminal proceedings.

Beaman has been fighting for his day in court since he filed suit in McLean County in 2014. In 2018, 12 former prosecutors, including former Governor Jim Thompson, former Illinois Attorney General Tyrone Fahner and former State Police Director Jeremy Margolis, signed an amicus brief in support of Beaman’s right to a jury trial. The lawsuit names the Town of Normal and former officers Tim Freesmeyer, Dave Warner and Frank Zayas.