IMPD internal probe into blood evidence revealed in David Bisard trial

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FORT WAYNE, Ind.– The third week of the David Bisard case began in Allen Superior Court as the prosecution began wrapping up its case and detailing IMPD’s own internal investigation into its handling of crucial blood evidence.

Bisard is accused of the 2010 drunk driving of motorcyclist Eric Wells. The IMPD K9 officer was responding to a search for a possible drug suspect on Indianapolis’ northeast side at the time of the crash.

Sgt. Sandy Storkman, who was assigned to the IMPD Internal Affairs Branch in the summer of 2010, led off testimony Monday. She confirmed the September 23, 2010, identification of Bisard’s blood vial no. 2 at the IMPD Property Room six weeks after the crash.

It was that blood vial that was later moved to an unrefrigerated IMPD Property Room Annex in late 2011.

Seated at the defense table, Bisard seemed more animated, writing notes and following the testimony and attorney objections closer than in the earlier days of the trial. Dressed in a gray suit, necktie and blue shirt, Bisard changes clothes every morning from an orange and white jumpsuit after he is led into the basement of the Allen Courthouse in downtown Fort Wayne from the county jail where he is being housed during the trial.

Storkman was followed to the stand by Sgt. Dawn Higgins who conducted a Department of Public Safety investigation into the handling of the Bisard blood vials in April of 2012 after it was discovered that blood vial no. 2 had spent several months in an auxiliary property room.

“I took control of the property,” said Higgins. “I opened neither one of them.”

It was that investigation, at the behest of then-Deputy Public Safety Director Ellen Corcella, that led Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry to write a letter of protest to Mayor Greg Ballard three weeks later claiming that the case and the evidence had been potentially compromised by the handling of the blood vials in violation of a court order.

Higgins admitted she did not examine the evidence on behalf of the prosecutor’s office.

An informant tipped off Curry to the internal investigation.

Higgins identified for jurors photographs of the evidence envelopes and blood vials previously obtained by Fox 59 News.

“Did you ever open the interior seal?” Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth asked.

“No,” said Higgins, who identified her initials on the envelopes and testified the evidence never left the IMPD Property Room during her investigation.

Under cross examination, Higgins testified that she examined the blood vials because, “we were checking to see if the items were properly refrigerated.”

Blood vial no. 1 was always refrigerated. Blood vial no. 2 was stored on a warm shelf for five months. The defense is trying to prove that the quality of the sample in the second vial was compromised. Multiple tests on both vials put Bisard’s blood alcohol level at .18 to .19 percent, more than twice the legal limit to drive in Indiana.

Seated at the prosecution table is IMPD crash investigator Sgt. Doug Heustis who was read his Miranda Rights by Higgins during a criminal investigation into the handling of the blood vials.

No criminal charges were ever filed.

During re-cross examination, Higgins confirmed that the evidence never left the control of the property room though it was moved between facilities.

Just before the mid-morning break, Judge Surbeck and the attorneys conferred once again on the Court’s directive that inquiry into IMPD’s internal investigations be limited.

The investigation cost Police Chief Paul Ciesielski his job. The controversy forced Public Safety Director Frank Straub to resign.

When testimony resumed, Sgt. Kevin Wethington was called to the stand to testify about the role he played in the blood vials internal investigation.

Wethington said on April 19, 2012, he accompanied Corcella, at her request, to the property room to investigate evidence though he did not know it was related to the Bisard case until his arrival at the facility in the basement of the City-County Building.

Wethington told jurors he insisted that Corcella place her initials on the evidence to note that she had observed and handled it that day.

Supervisor of the Marion County Forensics Services Agency Robert McCurdy told jurors he has conducted, “well over a thousand,” blood alcohol content tests on samples during his career.

McCurdy said on Oct. 26, 2012, he retrieved the blood samples and a DNA swab from the property room for testing on an analysis device that, “was working properly,” and correctly differentiates between various alcohol types.

The chemist described for jurors how a BAC test is conducted.

McCurdy said while he expected to see some degradation of blood drawn more than two years earlier, he did not see any evidence of break down due to its improper draw or exposure to air.

Under direct examination by Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson, McCurdy explained evidence preservation and protocols that protect the integrity of blood samples as opposed to questions about potential alternative practices raised by the defense.

The cross examination of the technician who drew Bisard’s blood the day of the crash presented testimony that not all IMPD and Methodist Occupational Health Clinic rules and practices were followed or in agreement.

Some jurors looked restless during McCurdy’s explanation, in scientific jargon and detail, about the testing and results.

Jurors often take notes, provide questions and view their own copies of evidence.

Those findings are the basis of the prosecution’s toughest charges that could potentially send Bisard to prison for 20 years.