INDIANAPOLIS—The mysterious murder of IU sophomore Jill Behrman in 2000, and conviction of suspect John Myers in 2006 is a case anyone living in Indiana the past decade will never forget.
"The case received publicity across the state and across the nation," said Henry Karlson, a retired IU School of Law professor. Fox59 has now learned Patrick Baker, the Indianapolis attorney who agreed to represent John Myers pro bono, for free, faces charges he violated rules of professional conduct in the Behrman case.
"It's as serious as it gets for lawyers," said Don Lundberg who served as the head of the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission for 18 years.
"It would worry any lawyer," said Lundberg. Lundberg oversaw the case filed against Baker and is familiar with the charges.
"The case has three aspects, one how Baker got the case improperly, second how he improperly pointed the finger to another person and third how he asked Myers' family for money for the prosecution even though the family didn't have any money and Mr. Myers was a pauper," said Lundberg.
Attorneys are forbidden to solicit cases, which it appears Baker did. Baker said he had received a phone call from someone saying Myers had been charged with Behrman's murder and was an innocent man. One person close to the case believes that call may have come from former Behrman murder suspect Alicia Sowders. Reports are Sowders has been deposed for the pending case against Patrick Baker. The disciplinary charges can result in different measures of sanctions.
"The highest sanction is disbarrment, permanent loss of license," said Lundberg. "This case against Baker is not a disbarrment case but it is not trivial."
Baker could face a private or public reprimand or a suspension of his license. The case goes before an appointed Judge in Hamilton County January 19th. Baker did not return Fox59's calls for comment. He's hired high-profile defense attorney Jim Voyles to represent him. Voyles also did not return calls for comment.
One reason some attorneys think Baker may have gone after representing Myers was because of coverage on the Behrman case.
"Attorneys know the publicity will bring them a huge number of clients," said Karlson.
But the current case against Baker would have no impact on Myers conviction being overturned.
"The question of incompetent counsel is totally separate and totally different from ethical violations," said Karlson. Fox59 has also learned Baker is under review for his competency in the trial. A post conviction relief process is underway. That will include a review of Baker's work to defend Myers in the trial. If it's found Baker was incompetent that could potentially overturn the verdict. But experts say the threshold to prove incompetency is extremely high and hard to prove.
"This case was a very weak circumstantial case," said Karlson."There is no direct evidence connecting Myers to the commission of the murder. You don't have DNA, no fingerprints, you don't have an eyewitness. It was all circumstantial."
But Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega did win a conviction in the case. The jury voted unanimously Myers was guilty of murdering Behrman. Myers is serving his sentence at Michigan City Men's prison. His sentence is expected to last about 30 years. Prosecutors said Myers murdered Behrman in a fit of rage over an ex-girlfriend. Behrman's bike was found about a mile from Myers' trailer. John Myer's mother, Jodie Myers, maintains her son's innocence. She has been pursuing exonerating her son for years but so far hasn't come up with any new evidence that would clear him. She pursued the current case against attorney Patrick Baker and released a statement saying "our family is extremely disappointed in Mr. Baker and pray that justice is served in these proceedings."