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Judge orders new venue for officer in fatal crash

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A judge on Thursday decided to move the trial of an Indianapolis police officer accused of causing a fatal 2010 crash by driving drunk.

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

"When I got off the elevator, four cameras were pointed at me," Hawkins said during a brief hearing. "That indicates that interest in the case lingers" more than two years after it began, he added.

Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson told reporters after the hearing that both sides had known a change of venue was likely because of extensive coverage in the Indianapolis media market, which sweeps a large portion of the state, and public perception of the case.

"The defendant is entitled to a fair trial," she said. "The state is entitled to a fair trial."

Bisard's lawyer, John Kautzman, would not comment.

Hawkins met with attorneys for both sides behind closed doors to discuss possible sites for the trial, but Robinson would not say what options were considered. It wasn't clear when Hawkins would rule on the new site, but another hearing was scheduled for Feb. 14. Robinson said that at that time the judge would likely set a trial date for sometime late next summer.

Aaron Wells, whose son Eric was killed when Bisard's cruiser slammed into two motorcycles stopped at a traffic light on Aug. 6, 2010, doubted there was anywhere the case could avoid media coverage.

"I don't think there's a county in the state of Indiana where there's not going to be cameras there," he told reporters. "I think it's going to follow them."

Bisard faces charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, reckless homicide and criminal recklessness. The crash also injured two other people.

Bisard was arrested a few days following the crash after a blood test showed his blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit. His attorney has asked the Indiana Supreme Court to rule a blood sample inadmissible because it wasn't drawn according to procedures outlined in state law.

The sample pegged Bisard's blood-alcohol content at 0.19 percent. But then-Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi stunned the victims and public when he dropped drunken driving charges against Bisard just days after they were filed. Brizzi said the blood test was improperly administered and he didn't think it could be admitted as evidence.

Prosecutor Terry Curry, his successor, refiled the drunken driving charges against Bisard early in 2011. Hawkins ruled in May 2011 that the first blood test couldn't be used as evidence of drunken driving, citing the same reasons Brizzi had. But the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in September.

Hawkins did allow prosecutors to test a second blood sample despite objections by Bisard's attorneys that it was mishandled by police technicians. Robinson said Thursday those tests were complete, but she would not discuss the results.

Police officers' handling of the crash scene and the decision to drop the drunken driving charge stirred public mistrust and allegations of a cover-up that linger two years later.

Critics said it was hard to believe that officers at the scene hadn't realized Bisard had been drinking. Hundreds of motorcyclists flocked to downtown Indianapolis in the weekends after the crash to protest against Bisard and hold vigils for the victims. Two official investigations into the handling of evidence and the scene resulted in disciplinary action or demotion for several high-ranking officers, including the police chief.

The city of Indianapolis in October agreed to pay a total of $2.3 million to Kurt Weekly and Mary Mills, to settle a lawsuit over their injuries in the crash.

The city settled separately in June for $1.55 million with Wells' family.

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  • Not surprised
    No wonder that many see the police behavior as "above the law". What will our new governor, mayor, or police chief do?

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