The deadline was November 26, 2019. By that time, 35 days had gone by for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to file a response to an appeal by Roosevelt Myles, a wrongfully-convicted Chicago man, who has spent 28 years in prison, experiencing decades of delays and frustrations. When the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office did not respond by the deadline, the wait began for Myles. Days turned into weeks. A total of 73 days would go by before Myles learned that he might have to wait a total of 129 days for a response to his appeal because of a “clerical oversight” problem that has never been fully explained. It’s the latest frustration for an incarcerated man who has spent half of his life in jail for a murder that he didn’t commit.
Myles’ fight for freedom has been full of red-tape blunders and setbacks in a justice system that has made his ordeal a nightmare. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 1996 for the death of Shaharian “Tony” Brandon on Chicago’s West Side in 1992. With no DNA evidence and a teenage witness, who later said she was pressured to lie by a disgraced detective, Myles was convicted of first-degree murder in 1996.
In 2000, an appeals court granted Myles an evidentiary hearing, saying he was entitled to prove his beliefs that his constitutional rights were violated during ineffective counsel.
For the next 16 years, Myles was assigned a string of six public defenders, who racked up over 79 continuances or delays under Judge Dennis Porter.
In 2017, Myles retained Jennifer Bonjean, a prominent private attorney in New York who fought for three months to obtain Myles’ files, which showed no work was done on his case.
On June 13, 2018, Bonjean filed a post-conviction appeal. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office filed a motion opposing it, saying Myles’ appeal for an evidentiary hearing had no merit.
Meanwhile, the Conviction Integrity Unit in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped Myles’ case.
Judge Dennis Porter, who presided over Myles’ murder trial, delayed his decision on Myles’ appeal three times before finally dismissing it on February 13, 2019, ending Myles’ fruitless 18-year wait for the hearing that he was granted in 2000.
Bonjean filed an emergency notice of appeal before she was finally able to file a full appeal on October 22, 2019 in the Appellate Court of Illinois First Judicial District. In her filing, Bonjean said “the Circuit Court lost significant portions of the postconviction record, prolonging the filing of a complete record on appeal.”
In that same filing, Bonjean argued that Judge Porter dismissed her client’s post-conviction appeal without giving Myles the evidentiary hearing an appellate court granted him two decades ago and that Myles had “compelling claims of actual innocence supported by substantial newly-discovered evidence.”
Bonjean has requested a new judge to preside over the hearing. After the long delay to process the filing in the Circuit Court, Myles and Bonjean would be forced to wait to hear from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
By law, the state had 35 days to respond to Bonjean’s October 22 filing. Any filing after the November 26, 2019 date was considered late.
The Crusader emailed the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office on January 3, when the response was 38 days late, asking when they would respond to Myles’ appeal considering the deadline had long expired.
That same day, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Assistant State’s Attorneys Alan J. Spellberg and Brian Levitsky filed a motion requesting an eight-week extension (56 days) and blamed the delinquent filing on a “clerical oversight.”
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not respond to a follow-up email from the Crusader asking them to elaborate on their explanation of “clerical oversight.”
In their filing, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said they will need the eight weeks to review and respond to Bonjean’s 54-page filing. If the request is granted, Myles would have been forced to wait 129 days just to get their response, which would come 380 days—more than a year after they filed a notice of appeal.
It is not uncommon for the appeals court to grant extensions to attorneys. Many are granted multiple extensions to prepare and submit their response. Courts are usually reluctant to grant more time after three extensions.
However, Bonjean has filed a motion, calling the extension request “untimely” and asks the court to reject it. She argues that Myles deserves an “expeditious resolution of his claims,” after his “post-conviction petition languished in the state court for nearly 20 years after remand by this Court with no meaningful resolution.”
In legal termsn, to remand is to send back (a case) to a lower court from which it was appealed with instructions as to what further proceedings should be had.
“This case demands prompt resolution given the inordinate and arguably unconstitutional delay he suffered in state court,” says Bonjean.
“There is strong likelihood that he will never see the relief he was entitled to 20 years ago.”