They’re key pieces of evidence in the David Bisard trial – but defense attorneys are already casting doubt on the two blood vials which prosecutors hope will prove Bisard was intoxicated when he caused a deadly crash in August 2010.
Medical assistant Michelle Johnson told jurors Monday how she performed the blood draw on Bisard after he was brought to the Methodist Occupational Health Clinic following the crash. Johnson said Bisard was accompanied at the clinic by a number of police officers, many more than she was used to seeing.
“It was unusual to see that many officers there (at the clinic),” said Johnson.
Johnson explained the blood draw process to jurors and some of the complications she experienced that day – complications defense attorneys were quick to seize upon.
Johnson told jurors the first vials, presented to her by one of the responding Lawrence police officers, were expired and that other vials they had on hand at the clinic were also past their expiration date, so vials had to be brought from another clinic.
Johnson also said she initially cleaned Bisard’s right arm with an alcohol swab, then realized that would not be with protocol, so instead Johnson swabbed Bisard’s left arm with a swab that does not contain alcohol.
Defense attorneys tried to question Johnson’s credentials, and asked the woman, who was 26 at the time, if she felt rushed or nervous because of all the officers who were watching that day. Johnson admitted she did feel pressure because of the situation, and also testified that Bisard’s blood draw was her first involving a deadly alcohol-involved crash.
“Did you feel pressure that day?” asked Bisard’s attorney Jon Kautzman.
“I believe everybody did,” Johnson replied.
Defense attorneys also questioned the manner in which Johnson handled the blood draw, including whether she properly inverted or mixed the sample with the preservative in that blood vial. Bisard’s attorney also questioned Johnson about the manner in which the sample was handled. Instead of immediately sealing the tube, Johnson said a supervisor told her on the phone to follow the protocol given by the police officers there at the clinic, who were advising her to do otherwise, according to Johnson’s testimony.
After performing the blood draw, Johnson testified that she handed the blood vials to former Lawrence police officer Stan Stephens, who told jurors he sealed the evidence bag instead of the tubes themselves before taking those vials to the IMPD property room.
Stephens, who was then a member of the fatal alcohol crash team, told jurors he had never been to that facility for a blood draw before that day.
The decision to send Bisard to the Methodist Occupational Health Center for that DUI blood draw, as opposed to Methodist Hospital, stirred controversy that resulted in appeals and an eventual court decision to permit the evidence.
Results from those blood draws indicated Bisard’s blood alcohol level tested more than two times the state’s limit for drunk driving.
Trial observers said the jury’s interpretation of the evidence would be crucial.
“If the defense is able to poke holes in the evidence… that’s their best shot at having their client be acquitted,” said Fort Wayne attorney Colin Andrews.
Monday afternoon, prosecutors also put Dr. Joye Carter of the Marion County coroner’s office on the stand. Lead prosecutor Denise Robinson showed the jury photos from Eric Wells’ autopsy, as the pathologist described the injuries he sustained after Bisard slammed his cruiser into the group of motorcyclists. Bisard did not look at the photographs, and one of Wells’ family members left the courtroom before the photos were shown.
“You shouldn’t be here for this,” one of the prosecutors told Wells’ mother and widow, who decided to stay in court, consoling one another as the photographs were shown to the jury.
Jurors also heard Monday from the mechanics who serviced Bisard’s patrol car. While there were apparently some minor issues with the vehicle, mechanics said they didn’t notice anything seriously wrong with the car when it was serviced before the crash.
Prosecutors are expected to rest their case later this week.