2022 April 1 News Article – The Pantagraph – Prosecutors agree to hearings on Bloomington man’s innocence claim in 1998 murder
- Kade Heather
- April 1, 2022
Click HERE to view the article on The Pantagraph. The article can be played when on their website. Also the 41-page Petition is available for download on their website.
BLOOMINGTON — Prosecutors on Friday conceded that a hearing is “legally required” on two aspects of a Bloomington man’s petition for post-conviction relief from his 1999 murder conviction in his daughter’s death.
Barton M. McNeil, 62, is serving a 100-year prison sentence on murder charges in the June 15, 1998, suffocation death of 3-year-old Christina McNeil.
McNeil has long argued his innocence and accused his ex-girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, from whom he separated earlier that night, of causing his daughter’s death.
Barton McNeil, shown at the Menard Correctional Center in 2017, will be featured in The Oxygen Network’s “Snapped: Behind Bars.” DAVID PROEBER, PANTAGRAPH FILE PHOTO
Nowlin, 56, is serving a 55-year prison sentence on murder charges in the 2011 strangulation death of her 70-year-old mother-in-law, Linda Tyda.
McNeil’s lawyers, from the Exoneration Project and the Illinois Innocence Project, filed a petition for post-conviction relief in February 2021. They suggested that new evidence would have led to his acquittal if it had been available at McNeil’s trial.
The motion filed Friday by the McLean County State’s Attorney’s Office argues the bulk of McNeil’s arguments should be dismissed. But it conceded that hearings should be held on two affidavits backing McNeil’s argument that Nowlin confessed to the murder to her then-husband, Don Wang.
Nowlin’s daughter and her ex-husband’s wife submitted the affidavits in 2013.
USE THE URL HYERLINK AT THE TOP OF THE ARTICLE REFERENCED PREVIOUSLY IN ORDER TO PLAY THIS VIDEO TAKEN DURING A PREVIOUS HEARING HELD IN 2021 ***
Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Koll wrote that the state’s concession to McNeil’s two affidavitsrequires evidentiary hearings, which would entail a trial-like setting to include testimony.
In a phone interview Friday with The Pantagraph, McNeil said he is intrigued by the state allowing hearings on the affidavits to move forward in court. But he also said he is “not really surprised” that prosecutors want to dismiss the rest of his petition.
“I’m disappointed, as I always am, that this is just extending the injustice suffered by both me and Christina, who for almost a quarter-century now has suffered the indignity of those behind her killing getting clean away and paying no penalties,” McNeil said from the Pinckneyville Correctional Center.
“That’s where I’m at and that’s where I’ve always been,” McNeil said. “From the minute I dialed 911 back in 1998, this is what I was dialing 911 for, is to get a response by the police so that they would then go and arrest who then was transparently obviously responsible for this murder.”
Nowlin’s hair and touch DNA had been discovered at the scene of Christina’s death — McNeil’s bed, where Christina would sleep when she visited him. McNeil and Christina’s mother were separated at the time.
Prosecutors minimized Nowlin’s DNA found in the bedsheets, pointing out her romantic relationship with McNeil. McNeil, however, says he washed the bedsheets earlier the same day of Christina’s death, as shown in a line item of a credit card statement submitted in court.
McNeil’s petition also argues that evidence suggests that someone entered Christina’s room through a window. He notes a window fan was knocked on the floor, holes were cut in the window screen, scuff marks were located outside the window and nearby plants were trampled.
McNeil’s lawyers, who include John Hanlon and Stephanie Kamel, also wrote in his petition for relief that “advances in the science of child abuse pediatrics confirm that there is no evidence whatsoever that Christina was sexually abused and, therefore, the evidence presented to the trier of fact regarding McNeil’s alleged motive was entirely false.”
Prosecutors argued in Friday’s motion that the “newly discovered evidence” that McNeil’s lawyers attribute to a doctor is instead “simply … a different interpretation of the autopsy findings than the State’s forensic pathologist.”
McNeil’s lawyers have until April 21 to file a response to the state’s motion to dismiss.
A hearing for the state’s motion to dismiss is set for May 12.