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Bloomington man convicted of 2018 murder claims lawyer ineffective, wants new trial

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Hammet Brown, right, listens to testimony in his murder trial in court at the Law and Justice Center in Bloomington on Feb. 9. Brown is charged with the murders of Taneshiea Brown and Steven Alexander on Orchard Road, June 10, 2018.

BLOOMINGTON – The Bloomington man found guilty this year of murdering two people in 2018 at a party on the city’s east side wants a new trial and said his lawyer was ineffective at his February bench trial.

Hammet D. Brown, 29, claims his lawyer, Mark Zalcman, of Peoria, rushed his pretrial investigations and did not call all the witnesses that Brown wanted to testify, among other complaints filed in two motions and discussed in court Friday.

Brown was convicted in February of shooting and killing Taneshiea Brown, 20, and Steven Alexander, Jr., 18, at an outdoor party in the 1200 block of Orchard Road June 10, 2018. Tyree Jones and Kenleia Sims were wounded in the shooting.

About a month prior to a scheduled sentencing hearing, Brown filed a pro se motion for a new trial in May.

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Judge Casey Costigan said Friday that he will consider Brown’s motions and could appoint counsel to look into his claims of ineffectiveness of defense counsel.

If Costigan decides not to appoint someone to look into Brown’s claims, then there will be a hearing to address Brown’s post-trial motions for a new trial or if that is denied, it would be a sentencing hearing.

His next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27.

Brown raised many concerns over Zalcman’s effectiveness to gather witnesses prior to trial, arguing Friday that he should have paid for a private investigator to help call more witnesses.

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Brown also said that Zalcman claimed he did not have enough money to subpoena more witnesses or to try to bring a gang expert testify at his trial, which Zalcman did not dispute.

Zalcman, who begins a new job in September with the Vermillion County Public Defender's office, did counter several of Brown’s claims about some of the people Brown said he should have called to testify. Zalcman said Friday was the first time he heard a couple of the names Brown mentioned who should have testified, while arguing that one other man’s story was too “inconsistent” and “confusing.”

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At his trial, Zalcman and Brown argued that Brown acted in self-defense, accusing Alexander of the one who upped a gun on him first. Brown argued that Alexander and Jones were members of a local gang and harassed him for selling marijuana on their turf.

McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney’s Mary Koll and Mary Lawson in the trial’s closing arguments described Brown as an “unmitigated liar.”

The state played a recorded phone call Brown made with a close friend, Duane Martin, 11 days after the shooting, which Koll said was “the closest we will ever get to knowing the truth of what was in the defendant’s mind at the time he gunned down these four people.”

“We upped one on them. We upped one on everybody down there. We upped one on everybody because they always thought it was going to be candy-assed. They finally came to our (expletive) doorstep,” Brown told Martin in the phone call.


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