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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ind. Courts - Still more on "LaPorte prosecutors sued for alleged eavesdropping"

Updating this ILB post from June 10th, which included these quotes from a Michigan City News Dispatch story:

WINAMAC, Ind. — John Brennan Larkin has been released of the voluntary manslaughter charge he faced in the 2012 shooting of his wife; and cannot be charged again with any crime stemming from her death. * * *

During an emergency hearing called by Judge Patrick Blankenship in Pulaski Superior Court Thursday, the judge granted two defense motions to dismiss the case — one based on the state's failure to put Larkin in front of a jury in a timely fashion, and the other based on the state's supposed use of information that was acquired unlawfully.

Today the News Dispatch has a lengthy related story, written by Kelley Smith, headed "Judge's order elaborates on Larkin dismissal." Just a few quotes:
During an emergency hearing on Thursday, Judge Patrick Blankenship of Pulaski Superior Court — who recently was appointed special judge in the 3 1/2-year-old case — released Larkin of the voluntary manslaughter charge he faced based on two defense motions: one alleging law enforcement officers repeatedly violated Larkin’s Sixth Amendment rights throughout the investigation into his wife’s death; and one claiming the state violated their agreement to place Larkin in front of a jury within 90 days of it having returned from the Indiana Court of Appeals. * * *

According to Blankenship, “… the State continually violated the 6th Amendment, not just once, by initially recording it, but multiple times. Every time they made a copy of that conversation is a separate and individual violation. … Every time they disseminated the transcript containing that twelve-minute portion was a separate violation of the Defendant’s 6th Amendment rights.”

A few weeks after Larkin’s arrest, Bullis is recorded telling Long Beach Police Officer Tobias Babcock to attempt to convince Michigan City Police Sgt. Darren Kaplan to change his testimony regarding evidence that may have proved helpful to Larkin’s defense. Kaplan reportedly had had a conversation with Larkin’s wife approximately six months prior to her death; and Bullis had learned about its significance during the improper interrogation on the night of Larkin’s arrest.

And in another alleged constitutional violation, the state is accused of tampering with and damaging the door to the safe that once housed the gun used to kill Larkin’s wife. It was determined during a hearing in 2014 that the only people who could have done so were Michigan City Police Detective Matt Barr or then-Chief Deputy Prosecutor Neary. Barr testified that he did not tamper with the safe door; and Neary was prohibited from testifying because he was trying the case on behalf of the state at the time. (Stanley Levco was appointed special prosecutor in the case in 2015.)

Blankenship says he consulted the Indiana Supreme Court ruling stemming from the 2014 murder case of State v. Brian Taylor for guidance in his decision. [ILB: see also this March 31, 2016 post.]

In Taylor’s case, which is still pending in a La Porte County court, Neary and several Michigan City Police officers are accused of illegally eavesdropping on a privileged conversation between Taylor and his defense attorney shortly after his arrest. The supreme court upheld the Indiana Court of Appeals’ reversal of former Judge Kathleen Lang’s blanket order that all officers who have invoked their Fifth Amendment right to silence in that case be prohibited from testifying. They ordered the presiding judge, which is now Judge Thomas Alevizos, to re-interview all officers and determine which pieces of evidence are tainted and which are admissible.

In other words, the Indiana Supreme Court determined in Taylor’s case that it is not the defendant’s burden to prove whether a Sixth Amendment violation has caused harm to his or her case.

Today's lengthy story concludes:
In his order, the judge accuses the state of putting Larkin “in a position of number one, having to go to trial with a judge who should have recused himself, should never have accepted it, which was Judge Alevizos, who knew he had a problem with the case. Number two, the Defendant is charged with the fact that no judge in La Porte County wanted to get within a ten foot pole of this case… It should not be a choice between a speedy trial and a fair trial. He is entitled to both, not one or the other. He is entitled to have both, and as the Court sees it, the only reason this case got to this point was because we had a prosecuting attorney in Mr. Neary and his staff, and we had a law enforcement agency in Long Beach Law Enforcement Agency, that did everything in their power to intentionally violate this Defendant’s constitutional rights and civil rights, and make it as difficult as possible for him to obtain a speedy trial.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 15, 2016 03:36 PM
Posted to Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions | Indiana Courts