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updated: 9/1/2013 4:36 PM

After 11 years, Aurora man gets chance to fight murder conviction

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When you're serving a 60-year sentence for murder, what's an 11-year delay in a motion for a new trial?

Way too long, an appellate panel has concluded.

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A trio of judges recently overturned a Kane County judge's 2009 decision to dismiss a petition for a new trial filed by 51-year-old Stephen E. Griffin.

Griffin, of Aurora, was sentenced to 60 years in prison after his conviction for the Feb. 5, 1992, killing of Michael Brown off Kautz Road in Aurora. During his jury trial, only one person testified he saw Griffin shoot Brown.

Griffin remains incarcerated, but he now gets another chance to argue for a new trial.

An appeals court initially affirmed the January 1994 guilty verdict and the state's Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Griffin, acting as his own attorney, later filed a motion for a new trial, citing ineffective counsel and other issues.

Some of the complaints against his defense counsel includes the failure to offer telephone records that would have impeached eyewitness Anthony Gibson, and a failure to tell the court that "two jurors later told counsel that they did not believe that defendant was guilty but the jury room was too cold and they did not want to stay overnight because of an upcoming holiday weekend," the appellate panel noted.

A judge dismissed Griffin's first motion for a new trial in October 1998.

Griffin filed an amended motion in March 1999 and a third amended motion in July 1999, citing additional issues involving DNA and a sworn statement from Gibson, in which the Aurora man claims he lied during the trial.

The matters were continued numerous times before ultimately being denied in October 2009.

"Defendant first contends that the trial court in 2009 did not have authority to 'give effect' to the 1998 summary dismissal. The trial court had disregarded that dismissal for a decade, and defendant has not been able to timely appeal it because he had not received notice of it," read part of the appellate opinion.

"As the trial court said in denying the motion to reconsider, 'No one acted with diligence on this file.' However, 'diligence' cannot be defined as disregarding all the proceedings in this case since 1998."

A date for Griffin to argue for a new trial has yet not been set or assigned to a judge.

Ask a lawyer: The Kane County Bar Association's next Ask A Lawyer Day will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 14.

People can call (630) 762-1900 for a free consultation with a volunteer attorney.

Lawyers have provided advice in matters ranging from real estate and criminal law to divorce, child custody and traffic court.

Officials say the call volume is high, but keep trying and do not leave a voice mail because the volunteers cannot access it.

hhitzeman@dailyherald.com

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