Opening statements set to begin Wednesday in Bisard trial

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ALLEN COUNTY – More than three years after an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department patrol car slammed into a group of motorcyclists on East 56th Street, killing one and injuring two, a jury of seven men and five women will sit in judgment of David Bisard Wednesday morning in Allen Superior Court.

“I’ve been ready for tomorrow morning for about three years, so, we’re ready to go,” said lead prosecutor Denise Robinson.

The fatal drunk driving case against the IMPD officer was moved to Fort Wayne because of extensive pretrial publicity in Indianapolis after the Aug. 6, 2010, crash.

“There were a majority of people who hadn’t heard anything about this case, which we expected, and those who did had heard very little and indicated they could be fair,” said Robinson.

One of those was Michelle Lawrence who filled out the 16-page juror questionnaire.

“Given the information that was contained in the survey and the questions that were asked, it was obviously an important matter and they mentioned that the trial had to be moved from Indianapolis,” she said

One life was lost, two severely damaged and dozens turned upside down.

Careers were altered, the public’s trust in its police department was battered and subsequent lawsuits, by victims and police officers, cost the city of Indianapolis more than $4 million.

The case cost the city’s top cop his job. Its aftermath dogged his boss, the public safety director, until and after he left town. The city’s mayor still faces questions about how he and his police department responded to the tragedy.

The man at the center of it all, after a sheriff’s deputy removes his handcuffs, will sit at the defense table, in a brown or charcoal gray suit, different than the orange or striped jail jumpsuits he’s worn to court since he was jailed last April.

David Bisard is still an IMPD officer, though on the fast track to being fired once this case is resolved. In uniform, he is allowed to wear the IMPD Medal of Valor for his fatal standoff with an armed bank robber in April 2010, three months and a few days before he crested the rise in the road over I-465 and bore down on the motorcyclists stopped at a light.

For almost three years his brother officers, angry but unified, supported him financially with their dues and paid his reported $400,000 legal fees.

That commitment came to an end this spring when Bisard, out on bond on nine charges related to the 2010 accident, crashed a pickup truck into a guardrail in Lawrence on a Saturday afternoon.

His blood alcohol level was reportedly 0.22 that day.

The day of the East 56th Street crash, Bisard’s BAC level was reported between 0.18 and 0.19, though his attorneys dispute that.

Fort Wayne jurors will not know about Bisard’s most recent DUI arrest.

They may learn, though, about the disputed initial blood draw in 2010, and the mix-up in taking Bisard to a clinic and not a hospital because a deputy prosecutor failed to retrain IMPD officers about a confusing state law, and an embattled county prosecutor’s decision to drop the DUI charges, only to have them re-filed by his successor after a public  and political firestorm.

They may hear about the commanders who were demoted, and re-promoted, after being blamed for mistakes made that August day, and the questionable handling of the vital blood evidence and the controversial off-the-books internal investigation that included illicit taping of the lead prosecutor and disappearance of the internal affairs files and the police chief who lost his job.

“I think there are, as everyone knows, there are complex issues,” said Robinson. “That’s why it’s taken this long, but it’s obviously our job as a prosecutor to make it understandable for the jury.”

Robinson’s first witnesses will include officers who initially responded to the crash scene, drivers who saw the accident and paramedics who treated the injured.

Judge John Surbeck expects the trial to last weeks. Both sides have listed a total of 183 potential witnesses.

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