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Friday, December 07, 2012

Ind. Courts - Bisard trial to move to another county

From Sandra Chapman's story last evening on WTHR13:


A judge has agreed to move IMPD Officer David Bisard's trial out of Marion County at the urging of the officer's attorneys.

Marion County Judge Grant Hawkins said Thursday the case surrounding David Bisard had generated too much publicity for him to get a fair trial in the Indianapolis media market.

Hawkins met with attorneys behind closed doors to discuss possible sites for the trial. He will choose the location for the trial from three sites in February. The possible locations are not known.

Bisard hit a group of motorcyclists with his squad car in August 2010. One of the motorcyclists, Eric Wells, was killed in the crash and two others, Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly, were critically injured.

Months ago, the big issue facing the Bisard case was an Appeals Court ruling on whether the blood draws could be legally used to substantiate drunk driving allegations in this case. In September, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a previous ruling and now says the blood can be used, clearing the way for the trial to be set.

The big question now is where the trial will be held.

Bisard's attorneys contend he cannot get a fair trial here in Marion County because of extensive pre-trial publicity surrounding the case for two years.

John Tuohy's long story this morning in the Indianapolis Star is headed "Moving David Bisard trial to another county viewed as smart call." Some quotes:
Moving the David Bisard trial to another county will be much like taking a theater production on the road, but it should sharply decrease the chance for juror bias, legal experts said Thursday.

“Most prosecutors would rather not move,” Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega said. “It’s the difference between playing a home game and a road game. You’re not at your own desk, you’re driving, living in a hotel.”

“Then again, you are eliminating a lot of potential problems.”

Citing pre-trial publicity that “endures” after more than two years, Superior Judge Grant Hawkins said a change of venue was necessary to ensure Bisard a fair trial.

The judge used a personal example to make his point.

“When I got off the elevators I was met by five (TV) cameras,” Hawkins said at a hearing Thursday. “That is evidence that interest in this case endures after 24, 26 months. I don’t see it attracting any less attention in the near future.”

The media attention the case has received would make it difficult to find impartial jurors who had not heard something about the case, Hawkins concluded.

The site of the trial still needs to be determined. Hawkins did not set a trial date. * * * The next hearing is Feb. 14. Deputy prosecutor Denise Robinson said she expected a trial date to be set then for late summer or early fall. * * *

Changes of venue in Marion County criminal cases are rare, but they are more common in smaller counties, said Ann Sutton, chief counsel for the Marion County public defender’s office.

“I can only remember one other case going back to the ’80s,” Sutton said.

That was the trial of Brian Reese, who was convicted in November 2009 of attempted murder for shooting IMPD Officer Jason Fishburn. The trial was moved from Marion to Valparaiso in Porter County.

Indiana State Court Administration records show that 1,350 cases were moved from superior, civil and probate court to other counties in Indiana in 2011, the latest year figures are available. Sixty-nine of those cases were moved from Marion County. But Sutton speculated that most of them were probably civil cases.

Cases can be moved because of pre-trial publicity, allegations of judicial bias, conflicts of interest by the judge and a handful of other reasons.

The prosecutor and Bisard’s attorney, John Kautzman, gave Hawkins the names of three judges or counties — they wouldn’t say which — they would prefer. Each side will then be able to strike one choice.

Robinson said it is still possible that Hawkins would remain the judge wherever they move. She did not object to the change of venue. * * *

It costs more money to hold a trial somewhere else, and the state is responsible for the transportation, lodging and security. But moving a high-profile case like this won’t be much more expensive than sequestering the jury in a hotel, which would probably be necessary in Marion, experts said. Juries are sequestered to prevent them from reading or watching news about the case they are judging.

Moving the trial now also eliminates any chance of a verdict being overruled later because of a juror who was privy to publicity he or she shouldn’t have been. Robinson said it also eliminates the potential hassle of beginning the jury selection here, realizing it won’t work, and moving everything anyway.

Here is a long list of earlier ILB "Bisard" entries.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 7, 2012 08:36 AM
Posted to Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions