Adam Landerman has been locked up since he was 19 and is doing life in prison, but you still can't really feel bad for him.
After all, he strangled a man to death. And the way prosecutors laid it out in court, he committed the murder in the course of a robbery he orchestrated with three of his friends.
The friends, Josh Miner, Alisa Massaro and Bethany McKee, had run out of liquor and drugs, and they didn’t have much money either. What they did have was a friend of McKee’s who wanted to come over to where they were all hanging out in the upstairs of Massaro’s father’s house on Hickory Street.
The young man, Terrance Rankins, showed up that night in January 2013 with his friend Eric Glover. Soon after, Miner choked Rankins to death and Landerman killed Glover.
Landerman and Miner got life in prison for the murders. So did McKee, even though she didn’t actually kill anybody and wasn’t even in the room at the time.
Massaro, who also didn’t actually kill anyone and wasn’t even in the room when Landerman and Miner were murdering, managed to do a bit better than her friends.
State’s Attorney James Glasgow dismissed Massaro’s murder charges in exchange for her pleading guilty to robbery and concealing homicides.
She also agreed to testify against her friends but prosecutors only bothered calling her for one of the three trials, the one they had for Miner, whom Massaro said she had sex with on top of Rankins' and Glover’s dead bodies. And they didn’t seem to need her testimony to convict Miner anyway.
Massaro was sentenced to just 10 years. She ended up doing less than four in prison before returning to her father’s house on Hickory Street, the one where two men were murdered.
Landerman, who like McKee and Miner was less lucky than Massaro, got some more bad news the other day. The appeal of his murder conviction and his life sentence was denied.
Landerman’s appeal claimed his lawyers didn’t do too good a job for him, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The appellate justices didn’t buy it, but they weren’t there for Landerman’s trial either. If they had been, they might have seen Landerman’s lawyers in action and noticed that they didn’t seem to be doing very much at all.
For his murder trial, Landerman had Joliet attorney Edward Jaquays, who has a private practice but got this case through his job as a part-time public defender. He also had a full-time public defender, April Simmons.
One thing Jaquays, whose part-time job paid him $70,000 or so that year, and Simmons didn’t do, for example, was call a single witness to testify. They also weren't vigorous in their cross-examination of the prosecution's witnesses. This may have been a legal strategy, but it obviously didn’t work out well for their client.
Simmons did tell the jury that Landerman was merely a “scared kid” and Miner was older than him, which was true. But Simmons went on to claim that Landerman was the smaller of the two men and looked like a child, two things which were the opposite of true, as Landerman was 6-foot-4 to Miner’s 6-foot-1, and doesn’t look much like your average child.
After the Landerman decision came back, a secretary at Jaquays' private practice in Joliet said he wouldn’t talk about the case, which was strange, considering the performance he put on in court was so effective, at least according to the appellate judges who weren’t there to see the trial.
Anyone who had been there would have a difficult time believing Jaquays or Simmons tried very hard for Adam Landerman. Not that you can really feel too bad for him. After all, he did strangle a man to death.
• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeHosey.