INDIANAPOLIS – The case of an Indianapolis Metropolitan police officer accused of an on-duty fatal drunk driving crash is being moved to Fort Wayne due to extensive pretrial publicity.
David Bisard’s attorney argued that his client couldn’t get a fair trial in Marion County because of the excessive coverage his case has received since August 2010.
Bisard is accused of having a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he slammed into a trio of motorcyclists, killing Eric Well and injuring two others on East 56th Street while responding to a call for assistance.
The Bisard case led to the reassignment of three IMPD commanders, the resignation of the chief of police and an Indiana Appeals Court ruling overturning a decision by Marion Superior Judge Grant Hawkins to exclude blood evidence from the trial.
Hawkins announced that Allen Superior Judge John F. Surbeck will now take over the case and has called for a hearing March 8th at which time a trial date may be set.
“Obviously due to the tremendous history of this case, I don’t think anybody that looked at this case objectively thought that it would be a fair and impartial jury that could be picked from Marion County,” said John Kautzman, Bisard’s defense attorney. “We had to try to get ourselves outside the Indianapolis media region and chose a number of counties and submitted it to the judge and we ended up in Allen County and that’s fine with us.”
A pair of neighboring counties to Fort Wayne as well as the cities of South Bend and Jeffersonville were also considered.
“We’re comfortable with Allen County and, certainly, given the size of Allen County, that’s an appropriate venue,” said deputy prosecutor Denise Robinson. “The case and the evidence in this case involves driving in an urban area and I think one of the considerations we had was that this trial be in an urban area where that driving behavior can come to light.”
Friends and relatives of the victims were satisfied with the change of venue decision.
“We at least know where we’re going so that helps us plan as a family,” said Mary Wells whose son Eric was killed in the crash. “Of course we’ll be there if we have to sleep in a tent, it doesn’t matter.”
“It’s a little inconvenient, but I understand we’re trying to safeguard his rights to a fair trial,” said Dennis Graham, a friend of Mary Mills who was injured along with her fiancé Kurt Weekly. “I’m looking forward to Fort Wayne right now.”
The last time the Marion County prosecutor tried a high-profile case out of town was in 2009 when the trial of Brian Reese—the man who shot IMPD officer Jason Fishburn—was moved to Porter County.
Reese was convicted in that case.