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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ind. Decisions - More on: Supreme Court refuses to reinstate Anderson man's murder conviction

Charles Wilson of the AP has a good story today, published in this afternoon's Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, adding to the information in yesterday's ILB entry which quoted an earlier AP story about the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal Monday "to consider reinstating the conviction and death sentence of a man who spent more than 20 years on Indiana's death row."

Today's AP story explores: What may happen now? Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS - A decade-old affidavit that was key to overturning an Indiana death row inmate's murder conviction could be used to reinstate that sentence if prosecutors can prove the juror who signed it was misled.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week let stand a federal appellate court ruling that ordered the state to release Mark Allen Wisehart, retry him or hold a hearing to determine if jurors during his 1983 trial might have been swayed by a report that he had taken a polygraph test.

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said Wednesday he would recommend the state attorney general's office pursue the hearing to determine if jurors were biased. * * *

During a postconviction relief hearing in 1994, attorneys presented an affidavit signed by one of the jurors saying that when she reported for jury duty she was told court would not be held that day because Wisehart was scheduled to take a polygraph test. The juror was not called to testify at the hearing.

Wisehart then appealed, but the Indiana Supreme Court said he had not shown any evidence that a single juror's knowledge of the polygraph test had swayed the entire jury.

However, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year set aside Wisehart's conviction, saying the judge should have done more to investigate possible jury bias. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case.

Cummings on Wednesday raised questions about the authenticity of the affidavit and the tactics used by Wisehart's supporters during his appeal. He said the juror told his office she had signed a blank document, not a sworn affidavit. * * *

The new hearing would be a fact-finding session to determine if the affidavit - and the jury bias argument - were valid, Cummings said.

"The representations made on the affidavit were not accurate," he said, "so attacking that finding in a new hearing would be the way to go."

The Indiana Attorney General's office has 30 days in which to decide a course of action, said spokeswoman Staci Schneider. She said the office would consult Cummings before making a decision.

A fact-finding hearing would cause much less delay than trying to mount a new murder trial 20 years after the crime, Cummings said. If the judge decided the affidavit was invalid, Wisehart's attorneys likely would file another appeal and the case would again go before the state and federal courts.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 29, 2006 07:19 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions | Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions