Juvenile Delinquent or Murderer?
By Sheila Eaken
Edited by Jeff Rigsby
In the summer of 1984, Mike Hynes was paroled from the St. Charles juvenile detention center in suburban Chicago. He admits he wasn't staying out of trouble afterwards -- he just wasn't getting caught. The Royals' agenda changed daily, and included activities like hanging out and listening to music -- or stealing a car for a little joyriding and breaking into suburban houses.
On November 9, 1984, eighteen year-old Mike and his buddies planned to attend a dance and wanted some quick cash to get decked out and impress their girlfriends. Mike was dating Janet Yonkers, the daughter of a Chicago police officer and sister of a fellow Royal, John Yonkers.
Around 5:30 a.m., Mike drove a stolen van into the suburbs with two other Royals, Patrick Saunders and John Bricis. In his own words:
"As we drove through, we watched people leave their driveways on their way to work. That's how we picked our houses to rob. Well, on this particular morning we robbed four different houses. The last one must have been a soldier's house, because it had army helmets and about thirteen rifles, a machine gun, and a .22 pistol. We took all this and more stuff.
"We went to a non-gang member's house -- Kevin's -- and traded a TV for some weed. While we were at Kevin's house, we showed him the .22 pistol. Kevin said, 'How do you know it works?' I said, 'It works. Look, it's loaded.' So he said, 'Try it and see if it works'. So we all went to the back of his basement and I shot the gun into his basement wall.
"Then Kevin wanted to see a camera that he was interested in buying from us. So I went through his back yard to the alley to get the camera out of the van. As I came out of the alley, there was a Gaylord gang member, Michael Ryan, coming toward me with a baseball bat. I pulled out the .22 and shot around him. If I was a killer, I could easily have shot him many times. That's how close I was to him. But instead I shot to the side of him to scare him away. He ran. This happened at around 1:00 p.m.
"Kevin came out of his house and asked me what I was doing. I told him what happened. He told me that the Gaylord lived right across the alley from him, and asked me to leave.
"So, Pat, John and I left. John was into doing heroin -- Pat and I weren't. We just smoked weed. John left us to go buy heroin. We went our way. Pat and I got into Pat's car -- an older-model Grand Prix -- and went to my lady's house. This was my second home. I basically lived at Janet's house. Her father was a Chicago cop who worked night shift and was hardly ever home. Her mother didn't live there."
Janet Yonkers wasn't home, but her brother John was. Mike says he gave John the .22 for safekeeping and said he'd return later. Then, he and Pat went shopping for new clothes and fake ID cards for the dance. On their way back, around 5 p.m., they saw a fellow Royal named Teddy Mikalsjewski walking, and gave him a ride to Mike's house.
"My mom wouldn't let Teddy in because of something he had done to a neighbor's house, so he waited for us on my front porch," Mike says. "Pat went in the shower and I talked to my brother and mom. When Pat got out of the shower, I went in to shower. This was around 5:30 p.m."
Mike describes what happened next:
"Instead of waiting for me, Teddy and Pat got into Pat's Grand Prix and drove half a block down to Janet's house.
"While Teddy and Pat were on Janet's porch knocking on her door, four opposite members (i.e., of rival gangs) were across the street in the park. This was Royals' neighborhood. Three of them were Gaylords and one was a Latin King -- they are allies. The Gaylords' names were Michael Polk, Michael Matsunaga, and Anthony Bermudez, and Carlos Rodriguez was the Latin King. I believe they were there because of my earlier incident with the Gaylord, Michael Ryan.
"While Pat knocked on Janet’s door, the Gaylords threw a beer bottle at Pat and Teddy and used hand signs to represent Gaylords and disrespect Royals. They also flashed a gun. John Yonkers answered his door and observed everything. Pat told John to get the .22 pistol.
"So John got the .22 and those three -- Pat, John and Teddy -- walked to Pat's car and got in. The Gaylords firedtheir gun. John was driving, Pat was in the passenger seat and Teddy was in the back seat. They drove toward the Gaylords and the Gaylords started running away. Pat fired and killed Anthony Bermudez as they ran into an alley, trying to get away.
"In the meantime, I'm at home in the shower and don't know anything. When I get dressed and go outside, I can't find Pat or Teddy. I go look where the car was parked -- it's gone. Then I go back up my porch and ask my mom where Pat was. She tells me he left while I was in the shower.
"As I start walking down my porch, I see a detective car driving real slow, and they are staring at me. Our eyes lock on each other. In my mind, I am thinking, ‘I'm not going to jail tonight -- I'm going to this dance.’ So I run through my gangway and get away. I'm hiding in the neighborhood in gangways, but the neighborhood is swarming with cops like never before. I get worried and run out of my hiding place. They see me and chase me on foot. I get away again and hide under a porch. Eventually they find me.
"They cuff me and take me to the station. I'm not really worried because I've been through jail and I don't know what happened. So I'm thinking that whatever I'm there for is not too serious. A cop keeps walking by looking at me and finally asks me if I know what I'm there for. I tell him no. He says murder. Now I'm worried."
The police swabbed Mike's palms to test for gunpowder residue, and put him in a lineup to be viewed by the three survivors of the attack.
"I'm dressed in black and royal blue (the colors of the Royals) from top to bottom. None of the other teenagers in the lineup are dressed like gang members -- they have army jackets and jeans."
Both Gaylords, Michael Polk and Michael Matsunaga, identified Mike as the gunman, although Carlos Rodriguez, the Latin King, failed to point him out.
"They said they saw me in the back seat of a beige or light brown car with rust around the rear wheel wells, opera windows, and bucket seats. They said that I was pushing on the front seat and hanging out the window and digging in my pants. At this point (they said), they turned around and ran and heard a shot ring out and saw their friend fall. They never gave a clothes description.
"Now I'll back up a little. While they still had me in the police station, they questioned me and asked me where I was at 5:30 p.m. I told them I was at my house with my mother, brother, Pat and Teddy. So after a couple of days, they found Pat and asked him if he was with me at 5:30 p.m. on November 9, 1984. Pat said, 'No, I didn't see Mike Hynes at all on November 9, 1984.' Teddy said the same. So now the cops came back to me and beat me around some and called me a liar and told me that Pat said he wasn't with me at all that day.
"I couldn't understand why Pat was lying. I never realized that he had done it. So I told the police to go to the place where we got the fake ID cards made and the stores where we shopped. Eventually, they found out Pat was lying, and they found his fake ID also. So then Pat changed his story and said he was with me up until 5:00 p.m. that day. His girlfriend backed up his lies.
"The police started asking him questions about me and who I hang around with that drives a brown car. So Pat tells them that I hung around with a guy named Orlando Serrano that drives a maroon car that could be mistaken for brown. Now they drag Orlando, who is not even in a gang, into it. His maroon Monte Carlo did not have rust around the rear wheel wells, no opera windows, and no bucket seats and was far from being beige or light brown. And (it) wasn't even operable on November 9, 1984 -- it was broken down. So they put Orlando in a lineup with detectives. He gets picked out. I believe the cops were telling the Gaylords who to pick out.
"They pin the murder on Orlando and me. The prosecution said he was the driver and I was the shooter. They took Orlando's car to the pound and investigated it for gun residue or my fingerprints. They found nothing, but never mentioned this.
"[The Gaylord witnesses] never said that they saw a gun in my hand, only that they saw me in the back seat of a car digging in my pants and pushing on the back seat. They were allowed to change the color of the car described by the witnesses from beige or light brown to maroon. Pat Saunders' car was a beige Grand Prix with Bondo around the wheels, bucket seats, and opera windows, just like the original description given. Teddy Mikalsjewski was willing to tell the truth, but changed his mind out of fear of going to prison. He was a juvenile at the time, and had been riding in the back seat of the car."
Ballistic evidence is critical to Mike Hynes' claim of innocence. A shower will not remove all traces of gunpowder from the hands of someone who has recently fired a weapon -- but there were no traces on Mike's clothing, consistent with his claim that he had showered and changed clothes just before being arrested. The police chase started moments after the shooting, and by the prosecution's account, Mike was apprehended leaving the scene of the crime.
The swabs showed traces of gunpowder between Mike's thumb and forefinger and on the back of his hand -- consistent with his firing the .22 from a stationary position earlier that afternoon. If Mike had fired the gun from a moving car, wind turbulence would have left gunpowder traces on his clothing, particularly on his sleeves and possibly on his shirt front. The same turbulence also distributes gunpowder residue inside a moving vehicle when a weapon is fired from an open window -- but no such traces were found in Orlando Serrano's car.
At Mike's trial for first-degree murder and "armed violence," the prosecution's main evidence consisted of statements from the two Gaylord witnesses, Michael Polk and Michael Matsunaga; testimony from two of Mike's fellow Royals Pat Saunders and Teddy Mikalsjewski, who were the main alternative suspects; and the traces of gunpowder found on Mike's hand.
Not surprisingly, prosecutors disregarded the alibi provided by Mike's mother and brother, but they also ignored the repeated contradictions in Pat Saunders' testimony, as well as the lack of gunpowder residue on Mike's clothes and inside Serrano's car. Neither said they saw Mike holding a gun.
Mike’s public defender, Arthur England, had never before tried a murder case. Mike had little contact with his attorney before the trial, and England failed to introduce at least five crucial pieces of evidence that could have cast doubt on Mike's guilt:
Expert testimony describing the gunpowder residue on Mike's hands as "faded and slight traces" -- which would be consistent with his having washed his hands after firing the .22 earlier that day, but not with having shot at Bermudez only minutes before his arrest; The original statements the police took from the three rival gang members, whose first description of the car used in the shooting matched Pat Saunders' beige Grand Prix; Saunders’ original police statement, in which he denied being with Mike on the day of the murder, and which was later shown to be false; Testimony from Carlos Rodriguez, who was unable to identify Mike in the police lineup; Testimony from John Yonkers, the Chicago police officer's son, who was driving Saunders' car when Bermudez was shot, according to Mike. Also according to Mike, and his mother, Yonkers was never even questioned in the case, although the car chase started outside his front porch.
Mike's September 1985 trial lasted less than three days, and returned a guilty verdict on both counts. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. After serving more than half of his sentence, only one thing keeps him from walking free on parole -- his refusal to show evidence of "rehabilitation." In other words, he continues to deny killing Bermudez.
Mike Hynes was no angel, but he's spent nearly half his life in prison for a murder he says he didn't commit. With much favorable evidence disregarded at trial, his story is at least as convincing as the prosecution's argument -- and his case demands to be reopened.
© Justice Denied