ALLEN COUNTY – After more than three years of debate, legal wrangling and preparation, the case of Indianapolis Metropolitan officer David Bisard, taken on the road to assure a fair trial, began in the Fort Wayne courtroom of Allen Superior Judge John Surbeck.
A jury of six men and six women, drawn during two days of jury selection, will hear the evidence and listen to the witness accounts of a fatal crash that happened on the morning of Aug. 6, 2010, on East 56th Street and Brendon Way South Drive on the northside of Indianapolis.
The Marion County Prosecutor claims Bisard was drunk and has charged him with reckless homicide, criminal recklessness and causing death while intoxicated.
The defense argues that the tragedy that took motorcyclist Eric Wells’ life was an accident that happened while Officer Bisard was on a run to assist other officers.
Lead prosecutor Denise Robinson led off the opening statements.
David Bisard’s wife and another relative left the courtroom.
“Friday, August 6, 2010, was a beautiful day in Indianapolis,” she said. “Bright and sunny day.”
Robinson described how Bisard took his patrol car to a municipal garage for an oil change that morning and the mechanic on duty noticed a brake light flashing on the dashboard and changed the front brake pads on the 2005 Ford Crown Victoria.
Shortly before 11 a.m., as Bisard was coming on duty, there was a report of a suspect wanted on a marijuana felony spotted in the vicinity of 42nd Street and Priscilla Avenue in Indianapolis.
Robinson said officers had not seen the suspect and did not request Bisard’s assistance.
Bisard volunteered to take the run.
Jurors were told they will hear the IMPD radio dispatch audio of that day.
Robinson described east 56th Street and Brendon Way Drive South, comparing it to a similar intersection in Fort Wayne that might be familiar to the jurors.
As the motorcyclists sat in the left through lane of East 56th Street, “What Eric Wells, Mary Mills, Kurt Weekly and George Burt don’t know is, coming up behind them at a very high rate of speed is David Bisard,” Robinson told the jury.
Robinson explained that Wells was thrown 101 feet as Bisard’s car struck his motorcycle, that Mills and Weekly were injured and Weekly was not expected to survive, and that Burt escaped with his life “by inches.”
“Was David Bisard falling down drunk?” Robinson asked. “No. Will the evidence show that David Bisard was intoxicated? Yes.”
The prosecutor told the jury that officers on the scene did not see any signs that Bisard was drunk that day.
Robinson explained that Bisard was driven to the Methodist Occupational Health Center where two vials of blood were taken because of the death and serious injuries resulting from the crash.
Lawrence Police Lt. Stan Stephens, a member of FACT TEAM 6, charged with investigating fatal crashes, then took those blood vials, with Bisard’s name, date of birth and case number, to the Marion County Crime Lab where they were tested on Aug. 9.
A technician then test Bisard’s blood and came back with results of 0.19 blood alcohol level, more than two times the legal limit to drive in Indiana.
Robinson told jurors that they will hear testimony about the preservation and movements of the blood vials, including the transfer of sample No. 2 to the unrefrigerated IMPD Property Room Annex at the police academy.
Then a technical glitch in the courtroom interrupted Robinson’s opening statement.
15 minutes later the interference with the courtroom reporter’s recording system was remedied as the jury was shown back into the room and Robinson asked lightheartedly, “Does anybody remember where I left off?”
Robinson continued with details of testing on Bisard’s blood and the decision of the Marion County Prosecutors Office to charge the officer with driving felonies based on the intoxication allegations.
“Why is this more than a terrible tragedy?” Robinson asked.
The prosecutor said that IMPD accident investigator Sgt. Doug Heustis recovered data from the patrol car’s power train control module and air bag control module that will reveal Bisard was driving at 76 miles per hour seconds before the crash, before slamming on the brakes and, less than a second before the collision, reducing his speed to well in excess of 60 miles per hour.
“This was not an emergency run,” Robinson said, adding that there is no evidence that an officer required assistance. “The law says you have to act with regard to the safety of others. At the conclusion of this case, based solely on the evidence, we will ask you to find the defendant David Bisard guilty of operating while intoxicated,” concluded Robinson. “Thank you.”
Then defense attorney John Kautzman approached the jury box.
“I’m not going to take nearly as long as Miss Robinson did,” Kautzman told the jurors about his opening statement.
“This was a terrible human tragedy and there is no way to escape that,” said Kautzman. “You are here to decide beyond a reasonable doubt if this cop is a criminal.
“The evidence will show that the state’s criminal charges against this officer simply don’t hold water. The state’s case is built upon a single piece of highly questionable evidence that is disproven by all the other evidence.”
Kautzman told jurors they would hear from top ranking police officers, other cops, witnesses, neighbors, medical technicians and a doctor, explaining what they saw that day.
“They all come up with the same conclusion,” said Kautzman, “that there was no way that David Bisard was drunk. Don’t kid yourself…that’s why we are here.
“Pay close and careful attention to witnesses that were there.”
Kautzman said there will be radio transmission audio tapes, “flawless” laptop transmissions and Indianapolis television video that will prove Bisard was not drunk.
“We’ve all heard the statement, ‘Garbage in/garbage out,'” said Kautzman, explaining how he will cast doubt on the blood vial test results that the State says proves Bisard was drunk. “You will not hear evidence that a crime was committed. Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
After nine minutes, Kautzman concluded his opening statement.