ALLEN COUNTY, Ind.– With 12 jurors previously chosen, 55 men and women filed into Judge John Surbeck’s courtroom for a second day of jury selection in the David Bisard case.
Bisard’s trial was moved to Allen Superior Court in Fort Wayne because of extensive pre-trial publicity in Indianapolis.
Before the arrival of the potential jurors, Bisard entered the courtroom dressed in a brown suit, his wrists handcuffed behind his back. As a sheriff’s deputy removed the restraints, Bisard made eye contact and spoke softly to five members of his family, including his wife, who sat in the second row of the gallery.
Mark Hollingsworth, deputy prosecutor, took over the questioning of six potential jurors.
Hollingsworth reassured the candidates that if they were chosen to the panel they would not be sequestered and cut off from their families and all media and recreational activities.
The prosecutor explained the concept of reckless behavior that was perhaps not intentional but the perpetrator should have known his actions would cause harm.
Bisard faces nine charges, including reckless homicide, for the 2010 on-duty crash that killed motorcyclist Eric Wells.
Hollingsworth sought to dispel the panel of its preconceptions of the criminal justice system based on expectations formed by television viewing. The prosecutor also asked prospective jurors if Bisard’s status as a police officer would affect their open-mindedness in considering the evidence.
No one raised their hand.
When defense attorney John Kautzman asked the panel if it could vote on Bisard’s guilt at this hour, one woman answered she could.
“He was drinking and driving,” she said.
Kautzman used the give-and-take to present an explanation of reasonable doubt and the State’s responsibility to present convincing evidence.
Robert Gevers, Kautzman’s co-counsel, began his presentation as he has before other potential jurors, by placing his hands on Bisard’s shoulders at the defense table in a subtle attempt to humanize the accused officer who remains mute during the proceedings.
Gevers, a Fort Wayne attorney, likens the clear and convincing burden of proof in the seizure of a child from his or her parents as being less than the burden of proof necessary to convict Bisard of driving while intoxicated on duty that day.
Kautzman often raises his hand to demonstrate that while jurors might think they see the whole story, but would not know if he drew, “a clown face,” on the back of his hand and, therefore, conclusions should not be drawn before a full telling of the facts.
The defense counsel inquired of the potential jurors their opinions about whether Bisard’s status as a police officer means he should be held to a higher standard in society or in court.
One man answered he should because Bisard, “was on duty,” at the time of the crash.
“I appreciate your honesty,” is Kautzman’s typical answer when he receives feedback that could indicate a potential juror’s perceived bias toward his client.
Gevers quizzed the panel members on their visual or auditory learning preferences and has always received an answer that translates into, “seeing is believing.”
That finding could be significant as Judge Surbeck has ruled that he would allow a prosecution computer animation of the accident to be presented as evidence over defense objections.
Kautzman previewed his defense strategy as indicating that there is a difference between a willful crime and a tragic accident that may not be his client’s fault.
He also asked potential jurors not to be biased against Bisard if his lawyers decide to not call the officer to the stand in his own defense.
One man answered that he would like to hear from the defendant.
During a follow-up interview, one woman told Kautzman that while she initially thought Bisard was guilty based on media reports, she would be willing to set that presumption aside and listen to the evidence.
After 90 minutes of inquiry, one juror was selected bringing the panel to 11 with another juror and four alternates left to be chosen.
Judge Surbeck expects to wrap up jury selection this afternoon with opening statements set for 9 a.m. Wednesday to be followed by the first prosecution witnesses.