FORT WAYNE, Ind. — When Judge John Surbeck called the David Bisard trial into session Monday morning, he had a stunning announcement to the courtroom.
“We have a potential juror issue.”
At question, what did juror no. 12 know that he shouldn’t about the Bisard case and trial, just hours before the jury was set to begin deliberations?
“If we can save this jury, they are in our control from here out,” said the judge.
The juror in question appeared to be the most informed juror who asked what appeared to be the most detailed questions about blood alcohol testing.
The juror, who was seated the first day, informed other jurors that he had researched alcohol blood testing on the internet.
“When I looked up specifically blood alcohol testing, I asked, ‘Was it possible for anyone to beat a blood alcohol test?’ I Googled and the information came back there had been an overturn in another state and did mention that to jurors.”
Judge Surbeck, his anger barely contained as he considered a possible mistrial, admonished Juror 12 for his unauthorized research and conversations with the other members of the panel.
The judge excused the juror and asked him if he wanted to speak to the media as he left the courthouse.
Juror no. 12 said he did not and was escorted from the courtroom.
His departure left a jury of five men and seven women and no alternates.
Mary Wells, mother of crash victim Eric Wells, rushed from the courtroom, her hand covering her mouth as she stifled back tears.
Then, one by one, the judge questioned the remaining jurors as to whether they had learned of “Mike’s” research and asked them not to share the Court’s questions with other members of the jury.
While some jurors said they were unaware of the comments or paid them no heed, one woman told Judge Surbeck, “This has been life changing,” and said that while she would set aside Juror 12’s information, she wondered if it would affect her ability to remain impartial.
Another juror told Judge Surbeck that Mike said he had done some research about overturned cases. The juror told Mike to not share that information with anyone in the jury room.
Juror #8, who sat in the jury box in front of #12, said he heard Mike report that DUI cases had been overturned in Illinois. #8 told Judge Surbeck that Mike’s conversations, but not their content, had been discussed in the jury room before court this morning.
“Can you set aside anything you might have heard when you retire for deliberations this afternoon?” the judge asked each juror.
At stake is the state’s ability to present its case to an impartial jury not tainted by the knowledge that blood alcohol testing results, even in another state, were overturned.
The .19% blood alcohol content results are key to the prosecution’s contention that Bisard was more than twice above the legal limit to drive on August 6, 2010, when his patrol car struck a trio of motorcyclists on Indianapolis’ northeast side.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office has invested more than three years into this case, spending $40,000 out of pocket.
The cost of Bisard’s defense has topped $250,000.
The city of Indianapolis has spent more than $4 million settling lawsuits related to the crash.
Prosecutor Terry Curry leaned forward in the gallery and listened as Judge Surbeck questioned each juror about their recollections of Mike’s conversations and whether they could remain impartial.
All it would take is one juror, unable to separate their deliberations from Mike’s comments, to return a hung jury on any of the charges.
Judge Surbeck called for a 15 minute recess at 9:40 a.m. so that attorneys for both sides could consider their options.