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Rulings set testimony limits in Alan Beaman civil trial coming in April

Alan Beaman shares a prayer with a supporter and his parents, in a courthouse hallway
Edith Brady-Lunny
Alan Beaman shares a prayer with a supporter and his parents, Carol and Barry Beaman, before Friday's hearing at the Peoria County Courthouse.

Lawyers for Alan Beaman will be allowed to share evidence with jurors at his upcoming civil trial against three retired Normal Police officers that the officers violated accepted police standards in their 1993 homicide investigation that led to Beaman’s conviction on murder charges, a Peoria County judge ruled Friday.

Beaman was convicted in 1995 of strangling his former girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller, in her apartment near Illinois State University where she was a student. Beaman was a senior at Illinois Wesleyan University at the time he was accused of killing Lockmiller after the two had ended a tumultuous relationship.

Beaman served about 13 years of his 50-year sentence before the Illinois Supreme Court reversed his conviction in 2008, citing the withholding of exculpatory evidence by the state that would have likely changed the jury’s decision to find Beaman guilty.

The state dropped murder charges in 2009 and Beaman went on to receive a certificate of innocence from the state and a pardon from the governor. In 2014, he filed a lawsuit seeking damages against retired police officers Frank Zayas, Dave Warner, Tim Freesmeyer and the Town of Normal for malicious prosecution.

At a pre-trial hearing Friday in Peoria, judge Frank Ierulli denied a motion by the officers to bar any reference to more than a dozen errors allegedly made by Normal officers during the investigation. The violations of police standards are expected to be discussed in testimony from expert witness and former FBI agent Gregg McCrary.

Thomas DiCianni, lawyer for the town and the officers, said the focus of the trial is not on alleged police negligence but on whether police “improperly participated in the decision to charge and prosecute Beaman.”

The town and officers also lost a bid to keep extensive evidence of Beaman’s innocence from the trial set to begin April 15 in Bloomington. Johnathan Loevy, one of Beaman’s lawyers, said the legal team will be asking jurors to award Beaman “a gazillion million dollars” based on Beaman’s wrongful conviction.

The fact that Beaman was not guilty of killing Lockmiller and served more than a dozen years in prison will be discussed during the damages portion of the trial, said Loevy, if the jury sides with Beaman on the malicious prosecution issue.

In response to comments from DiCianni that the officers are not responsible for the ill effects Beaman may have suffered in prison, Loevy said, “They put him in a terrible place where terrible things happen. He’s going to talk about how bad prison is.”

The judge also ruled favorably for the defense on several issues considered key to the officers’ case. 

Beaman’s drug use during his college years and other negative information police were told about Beaman may be shared with jurors, the judge ruled, as long as plaintiffs can show the police considered the information in forming their opinion to charge Beaman with murder.

Beaman lawyer Locke Bowman objected to possible witness testimony describing Beaman as angry, bitter and explosive, calling the remarks “highly prejudicial.”

Crude statements attributed to Beaman after he learned of Lockmiller’s death were important to police, said DiCianni, “as evidence of a guilty conscience.”

A possible witness cited by Beaman’s lawyer as a more viable suspect in the murder may be called to testify. The Rockford man asserted his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination during depositions in the Beaman case. The judge delayed a ruling on whether jurors in the civil trial will be told that information until the witness is called to testify.

A list of four witnesses will be called on Beaman’s behalf, according to a list filed in court: Beaman and the three officers. An additional 27 possible witnesses are listed, including retired judge James Souk, who was a prosecutor in the Lockmiller case, Beaman’s wife and parents, and several men who dated Lockmiller.

The defense lists seven firm witnesses, with another 20 possible witnesses who could be called.

The three former officers and retired Normal detective Rob Hospelhorn and retired sheriff’s detective John Brown, along with Souk and law enforcement expert Tom Martin will be called by defense's lawyers. Twenty additional potential witnesses, including retired judge and prosecutor Charles Reynard, former prosecutor and current judge William Yoder and several friends of the couple are potential defense witnesses.

Edith Brady-Lunny was a correspondent at WGLT, joining the station in 2019. She left the station in 2024.