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Man accused of killing Mitchell woman, burning body entitled to bifurcated trial, appeals court rules

Lincoln Pickett

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A man accused of murdering a Mitchell woman and burning her body is entitled to a bifurcated trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

A bifurcation is when a judge divides a trial into two parts. In this case, the first phase of the trial would involve the murder charge while the second phase would allow the state to introduce evidence of a prior conviction that would establish a charge of possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

Lincoln Pickett is charged with the murder of Kamie Ratcliff in 2016. Ratliff had been reported missing days before investigators found her remains behind Pickett’s house. Police believe Pickett shot her and then placed her body in a fire. He’s also charged with obstruction of justice, abuse of a corpse, false informing, failure to report a dead body and possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

Earlier this year, Lawrence Superior Court denied Pickett’s motion to bifurcate the trial when prosecutors tried to introduce evidence of a prior felony escape conviction that would support the firearms charge. Pickett appealed the ruling.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the court’s decision in a ruling last week, saying the court made a mistake in denying Pickett’s request for a bifurcated trial:

In the present case, Pickett’s prior conviction for escape has no relevance to the charges he presently faces; i.e., it did not tend to establish intent, motive, knowledge, plan, identity, or credibility… The proposed instruction would be appropriate were the only charge against Pickett the SVF charge. The instruction avoids the use of the term “serious violent felon” by naming the prior qualifying felony and citing the statute. It would do nothing to ameliorate the prejudicial irrelevance in this case. Therefore, we conclude that the trial court erred by denying Pickett’s motion to bifurcate the proceedings.

Pickett’s wife, Jasmine Pickett, was charged with obstruction of justice, false informing and failure to report a dead body. Her case is still pending.