Will County judge suggests SAFE-T Act may force his hand in Joliet Outlaws murder case

Judge denied defense motion to dismiss case on ‘double-jeopardy’ standard

Jeremy Boshears, 36, becomes emotions while giving testimony on the events that transpired the night of Kailtyln Kearns death. Boshears is charged with the murder of Kaitlyn “Katie” Kearns, 24, on Nov. 13, 2017. Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Joliet.

A Will County judge suggested that he may have no choice under the state’s SAFE-T Act but to release Jeremy Boshears ahead of his second trial for murder in the 2017 shooting of a woman at the clubhouse for the Joliet Outlaws motorcycle gang.

Circuit Judge Dave Carlson made his comments at a Wednesday hearing in which a prosecutor contended that Boshears is a threat to witnesses and the community, while his defense attorney pointed to his record in more than six years of being in jail as someone who “follows the rules.”

Carlson questioned whether the charges pending against Boshears mattered under the SAFE-T Act law that eliminated cash bail and set standards by which defendants could be held in jail before trial.

Calling the Illinois standards the “most lenient” in the nation, Carlson asked attorneys: “Aren’t we supposed to essentially set a blind, false standard for pretrial release? Isn’t that where we’re at in the state of Illinois? Aren’t we supposed to say, ‘You’re charged with a crime, but we’re going to let you go until you’re found guilty?’”

Attorneys did not respond, and Carlson never concluded that he would have to order Boshears’ release under the new state standards.

Instead, he continued the hearing until Monday morning and ordered that a pretrial evaluation of Boshears, which is required under the new state guidelines, be conducted by then “so I have a full picture of what we’re looking at.”

The hearing was held after Carlson on Tuesday ruled against defense attorney Chuck Bretz’s motion that the charges against Boshears, 38, of Coal City be dismissed on double-jeopardy grounds.

Carlson said he did not believe mistakes made by prosecutors in Boshears’ first trial were “nefarious” or “malicious.”

Boshears is charged for a second time with the 2017 first-degree murder of Kaitlyn “Katie” Kearns, 24. She was shot in the head Nov. 13, 2017, at the Outlaws motorcycle clubhouse, 1915 E. Washington St., Joliet Township.

In 2022, a jury found Boshears guilty of Kearns’ murder. The jury also found him guilty of concealing Kearns’ homicidal death from authorities by stowing her body inside a barn in Kankakee County.

In January, Carlson had granted a new trial for Boshears based on what he saw as the “cumulative effect” of errors committed by prosecutors during the 2022 trial.

That led to Bretz filing a motion to have the case dismissed on double-jeopardy grounds. The double-jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits people from being prosecuted twice for the same offense.

Bretz argued at Tuesday’s hearing that prosecutors committed multiple errors and misconduct at the trial for the “dual purpose” of either prejudicing the jury against Boshears or goading the defense into moving for a mistrial.

Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Shlifka argued that double jeopardy only would apply if a defendant’s conviction was reversed because the evidence was insufficient to sustain a jury’s verdict.

Shlifka said Carlson’s ruling granting a new trial did not say the evidence in the case was insufficient. He also denied that prosecutors were trying to goad the defense into moving for a mistrial.

Carlson said the conduct of the prosecutors at trial rose to a level that required a new trial. But he said he couldn’t say whether prosecutors were being “nefarious” or “malicious.”

Boshears then returned to court Wednesday for the hearing on whether he should be released from jail under the SAFE-T Act.

Carlson was going to have another judge rule on Boshears’ release from jail with his impending retirement from the bench. But Bretz insisted on Carlson making the decision, saying that the judge was in a unique position based on having heard all the evidence in the case.