MARTINSVILLE – An Indianapolis attorney whose law license was temporarily suspended after a disciplinary commission found he took a high-profile case involving a 19-year-old Indiana University student who was killed because he was seeking publicity testified Thursday he was asked by a caller to defend the man who was convicted of murder.
Patrick Baker testified he doesn’t know who made the call.
She sounded distraught, he said.
Attorneys for John Myers called Baker to testify because they are trying to prove his ineffective counsel contributed to Myers’ murder conviction in the death of Jill Behrman, the Herald-Times reported Thursday.
Behrman disappeared while on a bicycle ride in 2000. Her remains were discovered by hunters in a Morgan County field nearly three years after she disappeared. She had been shot in the head. Myers was charged with her murder later that year and was convicted in 2006.
Baker said he visited Myers the morning after he received the anonymous call and agreed to represent him at his initial hearing that day without charge.
He said Myers’ family initially paid him $1,500 to $2,000. Baker said his usual retainer fee for a murder case at the time would have been $10,000, plus expenses. He said when it became clear Myers’ family could not afford his services, he decided to continue for free.
Myers is serving a 65-year murder sentence. He is seeking a new trial.
In October 2011, the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission suspended Baker’s law license for six months in part because he took on the case without being asked, in hopes the gaining publicity, then charged Myers’ family $1,500 in printing costs for an appeal he had said he’d handle for free, the commission said.
The commission also said Baker falsely told the jury in his opening statement that a police dog had alerted at someone else’s house.
The commission found nothing wrong with Baker’s courtroom performance other than that statement, and says it was satisfied the false statement did not prejudice the case.