The conviction for a man found guilty in the 2014 death of a Southern Illinois University student has been vacated by a judge.
Judge Mark Clarke on Monday set aside the conviction of Gaege Bethune, who was found guilty in the death of Pravin Varughese earlier this year. Clarke called for a new trial and ordered Bethune released from jail.
Bethune was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in June, years after the death of 19-year-old Varughese. He had faced 20 years in prison.
"He came to court today thinking he was going to get sentenced to 20 years in jail," Defense attorney Steven Greenberg said. "At least 20 years in jail and now he's going home."
Greenberg, of Chicago, replaced Bethune's previous lawyer and had called for a delay in the 24-year-old's sentencing as he aimed to have the conviction thrown out. The judge had pushed back sentencing for 24-year-old Bethune of Eldorado, Illinois, until Sept. 17.
Prosecutors maintained the intoxicated men fought while driving around Carbondale looking for cocaine in February 2014, with Bethune causing head injuries that left Varughese disoriented and led to his hypothermia death. Greenberg argued that no evidence was presented to prove that claim and said jury instructions were improper and may have confused the jury panel.