Judge denies lawyer's bid to leave murder case

DANVILLE – When Camerun Blaylock stands trial a second time for the 1993 murder of a Tilton man, he will be represented by the same attorney who put on his first defense.

Circuit Judge Dale Cini of Mattoon on Monday denied Richard Doyle's request to be dismissed from the case, citing the Danville attorney's familiarity with the now 9 ½ -year-old case.

"It's abundantly clear that Mr. Blaylock should at least have one attorney who is intimately familiar with the case," Cini said, adding that person was Doyle.

The ruling came at a hearing for motions by Doyle and his colleagues, Mark Lehman and Baku Patel, to withdraw as Blaylock's attorneys at his upcoming trial, which is scheduled for October. The three were appointed to defend Blaylock at the expense of the state's capital litigation fund, which is set up to provide money for the defense of death penalty cases.

However, they filed the motion to withdraw after prosecutors said they would no longer seek the death penalty in an effort to keep the case from dragging on for even longer in appeals. And as such, Vermilion County taxpayers will foot the defense attorneys' bill.

At the hearing, Doyle did not give a reason for wanting to withdraw. Although, he did ask Cini to keep him, Lehman and Patel on the case and to pay them the state rate for a capital case – $137 an hour each – if the judge denied the motion.

"What's fair is fair," Doyle said, adding he would be providing Blaylock with the same level of defense whether he was being paid by the state or the county. The county currently pays court-appointed attorneys $60 an hour of out-of-court work and $80 an hour for in-court work on nonmurder cases.

Cini said it was not necessary for Blaylock to have three attorneys, and allowed Lehman to withdraw. He denied Patel's request, so Patel will serve as second chair.

While he didn't agree to the $137-an-hour rate, Cini did set the attorneys' compensation at $70 an hour for out-of-court work; $90 an hour for in-court work; and $110 an hour for in-trial work. He said the rates were fair because of the unique features and history of the case.

Blaylock, now 34 and formerly of Danville, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the Dec. 15, 1993, death of 28-year-old Robin Jackson of Tilton.

Prosecutors said that he and Arnell Render burst into Mr. Jackson's home the night of he murder to "rough up" Mr. Jackson, who was considered a potential witness in a drug trial against Blaylock that was set to begin just days after the slaying.

Prosecutors said that Blaylock shot Mr. Jackson at least twice, shortly after Render had stabbed him. Render pleaded guilty to the murder in March 1994 and is serving a prison sentence.

In January 1995, a jury deliberated more than nine hours before finding Blaylock guilty of home invasion, and he was later sentenced to 30 years in prison. But it deadlocked on whether he was guilty of murder.

In 1998, prosecutors were scheduled to retry Blaylock for murder, and they intended to seek the death penalty if he was convicted. But before the case went to trial it was discovered that the Vermilion County circuit clerk's office had lost a box of evidence including autopsy and crime scene photographs, a letter from Render, allegedly confessing to the crime, and clothing worn by Blaylock and the victim.

Cini threw out the case, saying the evidence was critical to a fair trial, but the appellate court overturned that ruling.

Two years ago, the Illinois Supreme Court decided to hear the case on appeal from the appellate court. But before that could happen, the missing evidence was suddenly discovered in November 2000 in a vault in the circuit clerk's office in the Vermilion County Courthouse.

Since then the case has returned to Vermilion County Circuit Court.

Doyle was appointed as one of Blaylock's attorneys just a few months after his arrest.

In 1998, he asked to withdraw from the case, saying he is no longer practicing criminal law and that he had been unable to obtain more than $6,300 in fees and other costs from Blaylock from the first trial, but that motion was denied.

"I estimate it will cost taxpayers of Vermilion County $15,000 to $25,000 ... simply to have a new attorney well-versed in the case," the judge said, later adding that he doesn't intend for the higher rates to set a precedent.

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