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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Ind. Decisions - More on 7th Circuit upholds Judge Barker in trial level judical bias decision

Maureen Hayden of the Evansville Courier& Press has a followup story today to her story yesterday on the 7th Circuit's decision in Harrison v. McBride.

Today's story is headlined "Judge disputes 'bias' ruling: Posey County's James Redwine says murder defendant got fair trial." Some quotes:

A Posey County, Ind., judge is defending his decision to preside over the 1991 murder trial of James Patrick Harrison, whose death-row conviction has been overturned by a federal appeals court. Posey Circuit Judge James Redwine disputes the appeals court's ruling that his "unmistakable bias" against Harrison "infected" the proceedings and deprived Harrison of his constitutional right to a fair trial. "I had no prejudice against him,'' Redwine said Wednesday, reacting to the appeals court ruling issued late last week. "I know he got a fair trial." * * *

According to the appeals court order, Barker was "eminently correct" when she ruled Redwine had demonstrated an "unmistakable bias" against Harrison when defense attorneys alleged Redwine knew [Stacy] Forsee. Shortly before her death, the defense lawyers said, she claimed the judge was involved in illegal drug activity. Because of that allegation, the defense attorneys asked Redwine to step down. He refused.

The allegations, which involved a host of prominent politicians in Southwestern Indiana, were unsubstantiated. But defense attorneys Ronald Warrum and Thomas Swain raised the issue because they questioned Redwine's ability to rule on evidence related to Forsee's allegations. The appeals court said Redwine acted improperly when he refused to recuse himself and then conducted a pretrial hearing to dispute the drug allegations. "Indeed, Judge Redwine's active participation in the hearing and his statements on the record demonstrate precisely the bias that Mr. Harrison's counsel believed would infect the trial," the appeals court found. "Judge Redwine's fear that evidence might connect him to individuals involved in the drug trade, thereby tainting, or worse ruining, his judicial career."

The appeals court order echoes concerns raised by Barker in her 2004 ruling that overturned the conviction. Barker admonished Redwine for calling his own witness to testify during a hearing on the drug allegations, abruptly moving the trial date up by two months and refusing to allow Harrison's attorneys to raise the allegation in court without his permission. The judge also disagreed with Redwine's decision to not allow any testimony or evidence of an alibi defense.

Barker also found Redwine acted inappropriately when he refused to pay a month's worth of pay for the public defenders he appointed in the case.

On Wednesday, Redwine said he's never had the opportunity during the appeals process to defend his decision to remain on the case. All the appeals on the prosecution's side have been handled by the Indiana Attorney General's office.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 3, 2005 08:19 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions