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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ind. Courts - Still more on: Complaint filed against Johnson County prosecutor [Updated]

Updating this ILB post from Oct. 6, 2016, and this one from Sept. 27, 2016, sometime late yesterday (Friday), the Supreme Court posted its disciplinary ruling in the case of Johnson County Prosecutor.

In In the Matter of: Bradley D. Cooper, a one-page, 5-0 order signed by Robert D. Rucker, Acting Chief Justice of Indiana, the Court writes:

Facts: In 2000, Michael Dean Overstreet was convicted of murder and other charges in Johnson County and sentenced to death. Respondent was one of the deputy prosecutors involved with the case at the trial and sentencing phases. In 2013, this Court authorized the filing of a successive petition for post-conviction relief. The matter initially was before Judge Cynthia Emkes, who presided over Overstreet’s trial and sentencing. However, Judge Emkes filed a notice of recusal, and this Court appointed St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jane Woodward Miller as special judge to hear the case. Overstreet’s successive PCR petition was litigated in St. Joseph County in 2014, and in November 2014 Judge Miller granted the petition. Respondent, now the elected Johnson County Prosecutor, did not participate in the successive PCR litigation.

After Judge Miller granted the petition, Respondent provided a statement to the Indianapolis Star for public dissemination. In that statement, Respondent indicated he was “suspicious” of the transfer of the case to Judge Miller and then offered as purported support for that suspicion additional commentary that was false, misleading, and inflammatory in nature. In considering the statement itself, and the surrounding circumstances in which it was made, we agree with the hearing officer that the statement attacked Judge Miller’s qualifications or integrity and that Respondent made the statement with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.

Violation: The Court finds that Respondent violated Professional Conduct Rule 8.2(a), which prohibits making 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.

Discipline: For Respondent’s professional misconduct, the Court imposes a public reprimand.

Holly V. Hays of the Indianapolis Star caught the story and reported it late last evening. From the story:
Cooper told IndyStar via text message Friday night that the ruling reaffirmed a hearing judge's January recommendation for reprimand.

"I printed out the now official 'reprimand,' placed it in an 8.5"x11" frame I bought from Big Lots and have hung it next to the sentencing order of death which hangs on my office wall," he said.

He declined to comment further on the reprimand.

A complaint was filed following comments he made to IndyStar and the Associated Press questioning the decision to bypass the death penalty for Michael Dean Overstreet, who was convicted of the 1997 rape and murder of 18-year-old Franklin College student Kelly Eckart. Cooper was a deputy prosecutor on the team that won Overstreet's conviction in 2000.

The Indiana Supreme Court moved the Overstreet case to St. Joseph County after Johnson Superior Court Judge Cynthia Emkes recused herself for health reasons. The new judge, Jane Woodward Miller, later ruled Overstreet was not competent to be executed.

"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," Cooper told IndyStar via text message in 2014. "The idea that this convicted rapist 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."

[Updated on March 29] From the Johnson County Daily Journal, this long story by Michele Holtkamp.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 25, 2017 10:29 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions