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Friday, August 12, 2016

Ind. Courts - Vigo Superior judge admonishes state in southern Indiana HIV case

From the Terre Haute Tribune Star today, a story by Lisa Trigg headed " HIV defendant released from jail, trial reset for 2017: Frustrated judge says prosecutors tardy in sharing evidence." Some quotes from the long story:

A Terre Haute man accused of knowingly spreading HIV was released from jail when his trial was reset for early 2017 because prosecutors failed to promptly share information with the defense.

As he left court, Isiah Benford, 32, said he would comply with the judges orders, including informing people of his HIV status.

Judge Michael Lewis rescheduled the Vigo County trial for Feb. 6 after saying he was “not happy” with prosecutors who failed to provide documents and witness lists to the defense until a few days before the trial, which was to have begun Monday.

Defense attorney Mark Mullican this week sought exclusion of recent witness additions, as well as information only recently turned over to the defense.

“It’s unfair to the defendant to not be given discovery material” ... and be presented with new witnesses in the final weeks leading up to trial, Lewis said.

The judge said he’d lost sleep recently over the handling of the case by the Vigo County Prosecutor’s Office.

“This is a very complex case,” the judge said. It is “probably one of the most complex cases we have had in this court.” * * *

Mullican had recently filed several motions with the court seeking information he said investigators knew about but had failed to provide.

The judge issued an order this week excluding some witness testimony because of the prosecution’s failure to provide relevant information.

Still, Mullican said he was ready to take the case to trial Monday. He said his client had sat in jail too long waiting for the prosecution to get its case together. * * *

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Roberts asked for the continuance on Thursday.

“This is easily one of the most complex trials I’ve ever seen — most complex cases, most complex investigations I’ve ever seen,” Roberts said.

“Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence as you get closer to trial,” Roberts told the Tribune-Star. “There are certain avenues in the investigation that reveal themselves and you have to follow up on those.”

Roberts said the defendant has a right to a fair trial, and that meant more time was needed for the defense to review documents recently provided by the prosecution.

“Given the volume of information that has been provided to the defense in the last two weeks, we understood what the ramifications would be,” Roberts said.

“We felt that to operate within a fair system, the state moving to continue was the appropriate thing to do,” he said.

Lewis had previously granted Mullican’s motion to split the case into seven separate trials — one for each alleged victim — so that a jury would not be influenced against Benford by the number of alleged victims.

Lewis had also ordered 150 potential jurors be called as the jury pool had the trial begun Monday.

Lewis was visibly frustrated Thursday as he granted the continuance.

The judge noted a lot of trial preparations had been made and said his calendar would not be clear for such a trial until early 2017.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 12, 2016 10:01 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts