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Alan Beaman to continue work to end wrongful convictions

Normal Police HQ
Staff
/
WGLT file
Alan Beaman filed a lawsuit against former detectives Tim Freesmeyer, Frank Zayas and Dave Warner and the Town of Normal for malicious prosecution. The lawsuit claimed the officers failed to consider more viable suspects and crafted a theory of the case that ignored evidence favorable to Beaman, who was 20 at the time of Lockmiller’s death.

Alan Beaman will continue his efforts to educate police recruits about the harm done to innocent people ensnared by wrongful convictions, as he moves on with his life after reaching a $5.4 million settlement with the Town of Normal and three former officers implicated in sending him to prison for a crime he did not commit.

The Normal Town Council approved funding Monday for the town’s portion of the agreement reached last week. Insurance is expected to pick up about $4 million and the town's General Fund will pay the remainder of the deal.

Beaman was convicted in 1995 of killing his ex-girlfriend Jennifer Lockmiller. He was released from prison in 2008 after the Illinois Supreme Court vacated the conviction.

In 2014, Beaman filed a lawsuit against former detectives Tim Freesmeyer, Frank Zayas and Dave Warner and the Town of Normal for malicious prosecution. The lawsuit claimed the officers failed to consider more viable suspects and crafted a theory of the case that ignored evidence favorable to Beaman, who was 20 at the time of Lockmiller’s death.

Cancelled as a result of the settlement is an April 15 jury trial in McLean County.

“I can’t fix the past. No amount of money is going to give me those years back,” Beaman said in an interview with WGLT.

Alan Beaman headshot
Daisy Contreras
/
NPR Illinois
Alan Beaman

But Beaman hopes the civil action will be an opportunity for the Normal Police Department to reflect on its handling of the Lockmiller investigation.

“I just hope they will view this internally as a serious issue. The root cause of this isn’t that they were sued. The root cause is that they did things that caused them to be sued,” said Beaman.

Beaman plans to continue working with police academies to teach new officers the importance of avoiding wrongful convictions.

“I’m invested in making sure this doesn’t happen again and looking for ways to improve the process,” said Beaman.

The settlement money will make life easier for Beaman, his wife Gretchen and their two daughters.

“There will be more opportunities for the kids,” said Beaman, who lives in Rockford.

What led to the settlement

Statements from attorneys on both sides of the lawsuit indicate that the inherent uncertainties of a jury trial played a part in negotiations.

In their statement after the settlement, Beaman’s lawyers Jeff Urdangen, Locke Bowman, and Jon Loevy  said: “Those of us close to this case have always known Alan Beaman’s conviction nearly 30 years ago to be a miscarriage of justice. Despite an irrefutable alibi, the complete absence of forensic evidence, DNA analysis excluding Mr. Beaman as the perpetrator, and official recognition by the court and the governor of Alan’s innocence, the outcome following a trial for damages can never be certain. 

"A favorable verdict would have likely meant further appeals and more lengthy delay in achieving finality. So, this settlement amount is welcome, though hardly sufficient to compensate Alan Beaman and his family for their suffering brought on by Alan’s 13 years of wrongful incarceration.”

 In a report to the town council last week, town attorney Brian Day said the agreement includes no admission of wrongdoing by detectives and full support for the officer’s actions.

“The proposed settlement mitigates any risk of an excess verdict and protects the municipality from any excess verdict where damages could far exceed insurance coverage,” Day told the council.

At a March 15 pre-trial hearing, lawyers spent several hours making their arguments on what specific evidence jurors should be allowed to consider. Key among the evidence that was allowed by Judge Frank Ierulli was the expert testimony Beaman’s lawyers planned to share about errors the detectives made during their investigation, and evidence of Beaman’s college drug use the defense asked to introduce.

Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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