No retrial for Illinois man who served 20 years for murder

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KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois man who spent nearly two decades in prison for a killing he claims was self-defense will not be retried as ordered by an appellate court after problems arose with evidence in the case, Kankakee County prosecutors announced Monday.
An Illinois appellate court last year ruled there were enough problems with the prosecution’s original case to overturn Terrence Haynes’ murder conviction and order a new trial.
Haynes was told by his attorney when he arrived at court Monday morning that he wouldn’t be retried in the 1999 shooting death of 18-year-old Cezaire Murrell. Last month prosecutors said they were reconsidering whether to retry Haynes after a child witness recanted testimony.
“It feels great,” Haynes said after the hearing.
State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said his office made the decision to drop charges against Haynes after interviewing witnesses with “a fresh set of eyes.” Rowe said it’s rare for the county’s prosecutors to drop a first-degree murder case after a conviction is overturned.
“It’s a prosecutor’s worst nightmare,” Rowe said of the case. “This is justice.”
Haynes was scheduled to go on trial June 10 for the fatal shooting of Murrell. Haynes, who was 22 at the time, claims he was forced to shoot Murrell after Murrell threatened him with a gun.
Marcus Hammond was 11 years old when he testified Murrell was unarmed at the time of the shooting. Hammond, now 30, says he gave false testimony at the urging of prosecutors.
Three adult witnesses told police Murrell was armed when he threatened and approached Haynes, records show. None testified at the first trial.
“A lot of prosecutors would try and get the conviction,” said Shawn Barnett, one of Haynes’ attorneys. “We are thankful the state’s attorney looked into the facts of this case.”
In the motion to dismiss, Rowe quoted from the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct: “the duty of a public prosecutor … is to seek justice, not merely to convict.”
Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliott, who sentenced Haynes to 45 years in prison and rejected his post-conviction motions, did not address Haynes during the brief hearing. She only stated the case would be removed from her docket.
Haynes and his mother, Gail Gray, of Kankakee, walked arm in arm as they left the Kankakee County Courthouse surrounded by about 15 family members and friends.