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Bow-and-arrow case likely heads for redo trial in early 2021

Bradley French to appear in person for trial setting on Nov. 24

Bradley M. French
Bradley M. French

The bow-and-arrow killing appears headed for a redo trial in early 2021, and murder suspect Bradley French is expected to get his new trial dates in person Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Friday, prosecutors disclosed one minor hurdle remains and then they’ll be ready to put French, now 27 and formerly of Varna, back on the trial call. French is under indictment for first-degree murder, accused of killing Joshua Scaman with a razor-tipped hunting arrow outside Illinois Valley Community College early Father’s Day 2015.

French has not appeared in La Salle County Circuit Court since an appeals court threw out his murder conviction earlier this year. French remains held in the Illinois Department of Corrections thanks to COVID-19 (prisoner transfers have been limited to prevent infection) and because prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to appeal French’s reversal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Now the state’s top court has refused to hear the case, French soon will be remanded to La Salle County. The only holdup is paperwork; prosecutors are waiting for a final order (a mandate, in legal parlance) affirming his murder conviction is officially overturned.

Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. set a Nov. 24 hearing, by which time the paperwork will be concluded and French can be transferred from the DOC to La Salle County Jail to await trial.

It might not be a long wait. While attorneys are unlikely to schedule the trial ahead of the holidays, attorneys have had the case files since late winter, when the appeals court first granted French relief, and might not need additional time to prepare. A trial setting in January is not off the table.

Scaman died in 2015 of blood loss from a wound sustained in a parking lot at Illinois Valley Community College. French told police he and Scaman had quarreled in the hours leading up to their confrontation, to which French arrived armed with a compound bow.

French eventually admitted firing the arrow but told police he did so in self-defense. French was barred from arguing self-defense at trial, however, and the jury swiftly convicted him. He was later sentenced to 30 years in prison before the conviction and sentence were thrown out.

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