JOLIET, IL — Next month marks three years since Jeremy Boshears was booked into the Will County Jail on first-degree murder charges in connection with the gunshot death of Woody’s bartender Katie Kearns on Joliet’s industrial east side.
Boshears, a member of the Joliet Outlaws motorcycle club at the time, retained Joliet’s premier law firm for clients facing first-degree murder charges in Will County — Charles Bretz & Associates. That was back in November 2017.
Last week, Bretz told Joliet Patch that he does not envision Boshears will be standing trial until sometime in 2021. Boshears was 32 at the time of his arrest. Now, the Coal City resident is 35. His bail remains $10 million.
Even though Boshears has been waiting three years to stand trial and is about to begin his fourth year, his situation is hardly unique for murder cases at the Will County Courthouse.
Joliet Patch has identified nearly 50 Will County murder defendants still waiting to stand trial at the Will County Courthouse.
One -third are people such as Boshears whose charges date back to 2017 or earlier.
In the Katie Kearns slaying, next month marks the third anniversary since her family and friends alerted the news media to her suspicious disappearance. Will County police found her body in a pole barn on private property in Kankakee County near St. Anne’s, roughly an hour’s drive from the Joliet Outlaws Clubhouse. Kearns was shot once in the head and her body was dumped in the back of the Jeep. The Will County Sheriff’s Office maintains that Kearns died at the Joliet Outlaws motorcycle gang clubhouse on East Washington Street, just up the road from Woody’s, where Kearns worked on her last night alive.
So why is the case involving the Joliet Outlaws defendant moving at a snail’s pace through the Will County justice system? Is the coronavirus pandemic a key factor?
Bretz told Joliet Patch that the pandemic is not an issue.
Bretz said he is the only private practice defense lawyer in Joliet to employ a full-time criminal investigator on his staff. Bretz said his lawyers and paralegals conduct rigorous investigations on behalf of their clients who are facing murder charges. He said that most all of the murder cases they accept take a minimum of two years before the cases are ready to go before a Will County jury.
At any given time, Bretz said, he is representing five to 10 different clients facing murder charges. “It’s a major part of my practice and nobody wins all the cases,” Bretz told Patch.
Nowadays, someone convicted of first-degree murder involving a firearm offense is looking at serving 45 years, at 100 percent of their sentence, Bretz said. In other words, a 25-year-old defendant faces being in the Illinois Department of Corrections until they’re 70, and most likely, they won’t live that long in prison, Bretz said.
Therefore, it’s paramount for his team of lawyers, paralegals and investigators to conduct exhaustive research on behalf of their client, Bretz said.
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“When you’re talking about a first-degree murder case going to trial, you’re almost always talking a couple years,” he said. “It’s absolutely the nature of the beast because the stakes are so high.”
Earlier this year, Will County’s judiciary announced that jury trials were being suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus concerns. However, in recent weeks, neighboring Grundy County just held a jury trial for a Joliet man charged in the deadly stabbing of a 65-year-old Morris man.
Patch reached out to the Office of Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow for comment related to the increasing number of murder cases on the backburner at the Will County Courthouse.
“The number one concern of our Office during this pandemic has been the health and safety of the people of Will County,” Glasgow’s spokeswoman Carole Cheney responded.
“Throughout this pandemic, our office has been working very closely with the 12th Judicial Circuit to ensure that we are serving the interests of justice while also safeguarding public health. Pursuant to Covid-related orders issued by the 12th Judicial Circuit and the Illinois Supreme Court, some trials have been rescheduled or are in the process of being rescheduled. Our office stands ready to try cases once it is deemed safe to have a jury in the courthouse.”
Aside from Bretz, Joliet’s Tomczak Law Group is another private practice law firm often hired by Will County murder defendants.
Attorney Jeff Tomczak told Joliet Patch he believes the pandemic has caused the giant backlog in murder cases for Will County.
Tomczak said the notion that murder defendants must forgo a jury trial in Will County because of the pandemic, but they can still have a bench trial before a Will County judge is ridiculous and it’s in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Tomczak said he is representing an 18-year-old Joliet man, Rasean Stokes, who has no violent criminal history, who is one of multiple murder defendants charged in connection with the noon-time shootout on Joliet’s Republic Avenue that killed a Joliet teen in February.
Tomczak said his client was not involved in the shooting.
“With Rasean Stokes, I am resolved that this young man will not sit for two years waiting for a jury trial,” Tomczak said. “I believe I have an innocent 18-year-old with a clean record charged with first-degree murder who cannot get a jury trial.
“I am never ever going to pick a jury wearing masks and I’m not going to cross examine a witness wearing a mask,” Tomczak told Joliet Patch last week. In our business, a person’s facial expressions are extremely important to determine credibility.”
Last week, Tomczak filed a motion asking Will County Judge Vincent Cornelius to dismiss his client’s first-degree murder charges on the grounds of violating due process.
Tomczak’s motion stated that Will County’s general order from Aug. 25 declaring that all jury trials were being delayed due to the pandemic “violates the defendant’s 14th Amendment due process rights and his rights to a jury trial and most importantly, a right to a speedy trial in the same manner that the defendant may avail himself to a trial by the court.”
Judge Cornelius rejected Tomczak’s motion to dismiss his client’s murder charges altogether. But the day was not a complete loss. A jury trial for Stokes was set for late November, according to Tomczak.
Joliet Patch has tracked down all of the pending murder cases still awaiting trial at the Will County Courthouse. The list is extensive and includes a short summary of all the cases.