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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ind. Courts - Complaint filed against Johnson County prosecutor

Annie Goeller reports today in the Johnson County Daily Journal - some quotes:

The Johnson County prosecutor could face discipline by a state commission over comments he made after a judge found a man convicted of murder incompetent to be executed.

A complaint filed against Prosecutor Brad Cooper said he violated one of the state’s rules of professional conduct for attorneys and should be disciplined for professional misconduct, according to the filing with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

The state board is appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court and includes seven lawyers and two non-lawyers, and also has a staff to investigate and prosecute cases.

The complaint stems from comments Cooper made to the media in 2014 about an appeal filed by Michael Dean Overstreet, who was convicted of murdering Franklin College student Kelly Eckart in 1997. Overstreet’s attorneys argued he was not competent to be executed, and a South Bend judge agreed. * * *

After the judge ruled that Overstreet was not competent to be executed, Cooper told two media outlets that he disagreed with the judge’s decision, and called the judge distant and not accountable to local residents, according to the complaint. The appeal case had been moved to South Bend after Johnson County Superior Court 2 Judge Cynthia Emkes recused herself due to health issues.

According to the complaint, Cooper told one media outlet: “I was angry and suspicious when this case was sent to a distant judge who is not accountable to the Johnson County citizenry or a grieving mother who couldn’t even afford to drive up for the hearing. The idea that this convicted murdering monster is too sick to be executed is nothing short of outrageous and is an injustice to the victim, her mother, the jury and the hundreds of people who worked to convict this animal.” * * *

According to the complaint, those statements violated the rule for professional conduct for attorneys that says: “a lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge.”

The judge in the case, St. Joseph County Judge Jane Woodward Miller, filed the complaint and said the statements Cooper made were untrue, Cooper said in an email. The complaint did not say who filed it.

Cooper disagrees, he said in the email.

Cooper said he made the comments on behalf of Eckart, who cannot speak for herself, and will continue to advocate for Eckart and her family. For example, he went to the county and got approval to spend $3,400 from a fund that collects money seized in drug investigations to pay for Eckart’s mother to travel and stay in South Bend and attend Overstreet’s hearings, Cooper said.

“I am proud of the work I did on the Overstreet trial and, while I was not involved in the Overstreet appeal, I will continue to advocate for Kelly and her family until justice is finally served,” Cooper said in an email.

Here is the docket in the attorney discipline case, In The Matter of Bradley David Cooper (41S00-1509-DI-00520). Final hearing is set for Oct. 5.

A search of the ILB has revealed three earlier posts on Prosecutor Cooper. The first, from Nov. 20, 2014, concerns the remarks which are the subject of the current disciplinary action, quoting Vic Ryckaert of the Indianapolis Star in a story on "the reaction of the prosecutor in the trial." The other two earlier posts:

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 27, 2016 10:07 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts