Three men, once found guilty of murdering an 8 year-old boy while he slept, are close to freedom. In a Winnebago County courtroom, Judge Joseph McGraw ruled to release them on bail.
Anthony Ross, Lumont Johnson and Tyjuan Anderson have spent more than a decade behind bars for DeMarcus Hanson's 2002 death. Now, if they can find the cash to post bond they'll walk out.
"I'm pleased, it's been a long time coming and we've still got a ways to go, but I'm really pleased." -says Lumont Johnson's Mother Angela Johnson.
Judge McGraw recently decided the men would get a new trial. He threw out their guilty convictions. The Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office is appealing that ruling, but both sides could wait years for the Second District Appellate Court's decision. Prosecutors believe Johnson, Ross and Anderson are threats to society and asked for them to stay behind bars.
"Based on the nature of the cases, it is something we should all be considerate of." -says Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office Assistant Deputy of the Criminal Division James Brun.
But, the judge is allowing their release on bail.
"We're very pleased for Anthony. He's waited a long time and he's fought really hard for his freedom. He's been in for over a decade on a crime he didn't commit." -says Ross's lawyer Roshna Keen.
Judge McGraw set $100,000 bails for Johnson and Ross and $150,000 for Anderson. Prosecutors say he's been found guilty of gang organization behind bars. The three will have to post 10% of those amounts.
"The bond is appropriate and the court certainly weighed all the necessary factors in relation to the conditions that were necessary for the safety of the public." -adds Brun.
Even if they walk out, the court will be watching the three closely. Their bond conditions include the men having to live with relatives in homes with landlines and be home every night by 9 p.m. They can't have cell phones, access to social media or speak with each other or any known gang members. Alcohol and illegal drugs are not permitted and pre-trial services workers can test them and inspect their homes at any time. All three are asked to get jobs or go back to school. Any violations could land them back behind bars.
DeMarcus Hanson's grandmother Estella Dowthard says she's trying to distance herself from this case and working to put this all behind her. One of Hanson's relatives, who wishes to remain anonymous, is disappointed in Judge McGraw and wants him to step down because of this ruling. She talks about Alex Dowthard, DeMarcus's uncle and the man the three men allegedly were after the night DeMarcus was killed. Dowthard is currently serving time in prison for a separate crime. Defense lawyers claim he lied in his testimony accusing the three men of murdering DeMarcus. The family member says she knows Dowthard isn't perfect, but that he knows who was after him that night.
Earlier we reported...
The three men previously convicted of killing 8-year-old DeMarcus Hanson in 2002 will be released on bond.
Anthony Ross, Tyjuan Anderson, and Lumont Johnson were granted a new trial and had their guilty verdicts tossed out in the case on March 19. It was announced Friday that Ross and Johnson would be held on $100,000 bond and Anderson on $150,000 bond. They only have to post 10 percent of that bond to be released, but face multiple restrictions.
Hanson was killed when someone shot at his house while he slept. Police thought the attack was aimed at his uncle, Alex Dowthard, and Dowthard's testimony helped to convict the men.
However, Johnson, Anderson, and Ross maintained their innocence throughout the case, and their defense said audio tapes proved Dowthard lied. The defense also requested a new trial after Douglas Palmer, a former Rockford Police officer, testified he helped to frame the men for murder. However, the state claimed Palmer held a grudge stemming from his resignation.
The three have been in prison since 2002, and had been trying to get their convictions overturned since 2011. Several people testified in the post-conviction hearing that two other men were responsible, one of whom is in prison and the other dead.
Tune in to 13 News at 5 & 6 for a full report from Kelsie Passolt.
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