Chesterton Tribune



Accused murderer Christopher Dillard denied release pending trial

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Accused murderer Christopher Dillard will continue awaiting trial in Porter County Jail after Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer denied a motion to release him on his own recognizance yesterday pending his Sept. 30 trial.

In fact, Dillard’s trial may not even be able to start Sept 30, according to the Prosecution, because a third-party DNA expert the defense requested be present during examination of evidence has not been in contact with the Prosecution’s DNA testing lab.

Dillard’s new attorney Russell W. Brown Jr. argued in a July 29 motion that the Prosecutor’s Office has failed to bring Dillard to trial in a timely fashion, which, per Indiana Criminal Rule 4(A), is six months from the date charges were first filed: April 21, 2017.

Delays totaling 600 days attributed to the defense, including change of venue motions, motions to suppress, and appeals filed by Dillard’s former attorney Bob Harper, do not count against the State. However, Brown contends that Dillard has been detained for an aggregate of 229 days, which is 49 days in excess of the 180 days allowed under Criminal Rule 4(A).

In a hearing yesterday, Brown argued that the case was “ripe for trial” as soon as the defense’s motion to change venue for the trial was denied April 12 this year, at which time, Brown contends that Dillard had been detained for 121 days through no fault of the defense. Brown argued that Dillard should have been brought to trial before July 10, and that it was incumbent upon the Prosecution to know its Rule 4(A) responsibility and request that the trial be moved up from its scheduled date.

Brown also contended that the Prosecution’s rebuttal to his motion--that the State is only responsible for 91 days of delay after the initial charge-- is too reliant upon a 1975 Indiana Supreme Court ruling in a case where the defense’s request for a change of judge delayed proceedings.

Armando Salinas, for the Prosecution, countered that his reference to that case was tertiary to the central arguments of his rebuttal, which is that the 108 days between the April 12 hearing and the motion to release is not a delay that can be charged to the State. Salinas also noted the court schedule wouldn’t allow a sooner trial date.

Clymer ruled with the Prosecution. Clymer also said change-ups on the defense side could have delayed an earlier trial, including the fact that Dillard is on his third attorney. Clymer said Harper stepped down as Dillard’s counsel after the change of venue hearing and another attorney represented Dillard for a few days before Brown took over. Clymer also noted the State cannot be at fault if Harper’s availability dictated the Sept. 30 trial date.

Also at issue, Clymer said, is the fact that the defense filed a motion to compel a third party, the Times Media Co., to provide evidence yesterday morning at 9:42 a.m. “I don’t think it’s fair to the state to ask them to respond to a motion filed six hours ago,” Clymer said, adding that a party to the motion has 15 days to object under the law.

Brown countered that he doesn’t think the State has “a dog in that fight” since his motion to compel was aimed at the Times, but Clymer said they might, “and I’d like to know if that dog has anything to say.” Salinas reported he’ll be prepared to respond to the motion to compel by Friday, which is the last pretrial hearing scheduled for the case at 9 a.m.

Clymer said Brown has also filed a renewed motion for change of venue, which may be moot if he finds the motion to compel has no teeth. Clymer noted, per his April 12 ruling, he still plans to start jury selection early for the trial and cast a wider net. Potential jurors in the case will also be given a questionnaire to determine if they have prior knowledge of the case that prevents impartiality, and Clymer is open to reconsidering the change of venue if he finds the jury pool in Porter County tainted.

Clymer said he’ll rule on the motion to compel Friday, at which time, he may rule again on the change of venue. He also asked that the prosecution provide an update on DNA testing Friday.

Last month, Clymer granted the defense the right to have a third-party expert observe a DNA test the Prosecution ordered since the test requires the consumption of the whole piece of evidence, a strand of hair.

Brown reported yesterday that his expert has not been contacted by anyone at the Indiana State Police DNA lab where the sample is supposed to be tested. The Prosecution said the lab is waiting for Brown’s expert to reach out.

Clymer asked if the results of the DNA test will be ready for the Sept. 30 trial. The Prosecution said they can’t be sure because Brown’s expert will need to be vetted by the lab before observing the test, and the results of the test could take six weeks.

Clymer warned if the failure to communicate causes a delay, it will be chargeable to the responsible party under Rule 4(A).

Dillard is awaiting trial for the 2017 murder of 24-year-old Nicole Gland, a bartender at the former Upper Deck Lounge at 139 S. Calumet Road, Chesterton, where Dillard also worked as a bouncer. Gland’s body was found slumped over in her car directly behind the offices of the Chesterton Tribune April 19, 2017. An autopsy showed that she had been stabbed 24 times in the head, neck, and torso.

Complications have arisen in trying the case, since an appeals court suppressed a confession Dillard reportedly made to Chesterton police after being denied counsel three times in an 11-hour interrogation. The Indiana Supreme Court declined to reverse the suppression ruling. The defense has also argued that local media coverage of the case and the suppression rulings, have tainted the jury pool in Porter County and requested documentation from the Times and the Chesterton Tribune related to their coverage of the case.


Posted 8/21/2019





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