Christopher Dillard’s trial start date was rescheduled from Sept. 30 to Oct.
21 at a hearing Friday.
In spite of an
objection from the Prosecution, Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer
granted the Defense’s motion to continue on the grounds that a DNA expert
requested by the Defense, and funded by the Court, has not coordinated with
the Indiana State Police DNA lab to observe a DNA test that will consume the
evidence at hand.
for the Prosecution, reported a contact at the lab told him the Defense’s
expert has still not contacted them, and conducting the test and getting
results is a six-week process. Dillard’s attorney Russell W. Brown Jr.
reported he has not been able to get in contact with his chosen expert after
sending an email Tuesday. Clymer approved funding for the expert in July.
Clymer said that
the delay is chargeable to the defense under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(A),
which states that a defendant awaiting trial has a right to be released on
his or her own recognizance pending trial if detained by the State more than
an aggregate of 180 days. This ruling came just days after Clymer denied
Dillard release under Rule 4(A) after Brown argued Dillard has been detained
for a total of 229 days through no fault of his own. Brown’s argument then
acknowledged that the defense has been responsible for more than 600 days of
delay since Dillard was charged in April 2017.
“The State and your
expert have to communicate, and that has to happen soon,” Clymer told Brown.
“I’ll continue the trial for a very short term. Whatever else is on the
calendar, I’ll bump unless there’s a constitutional issue with someone
else.” Jury selection will begin at 9 a.m. on Oct. 21, with extra precaution
following concerns that an impartial jury will not be found in Porter
Clymer also ruled
Friday to deny a motion to compel the Times Media Co. to provide evidence to
the Defense and denied a related motion from the Defense to reconsider
changing venue for the trial due to prejudicial media coverage of the case.
motion to compel Friday sought data on the post reach of articles about
Dillard shared on the Northwest Indiana Times’ Facebook page in a
grab for more evidence to renew the argument for trying Dillard in another
County or bringing in an outside jury. Clymer denied a change of venue
motion filed in April by Dillard’s former attorney Bob Harper.
Brown argued that
the Times has over 100,000 followers on Facebook, and through sharing
and commenting by those users, users on Facebook who don’t like the Times
can also see its posts. Brown asked for the “post details report” for each
article the Times has shared online about Dillard, which shows how
many people actually viewed the post.
Clymer sided with
the Times, which argued that the data Brown sought was irrelevant
because there is no way to use the report to determine if people who viewed
the posts are eligible jurors in Porter County. The Times also argued
that making post details from its Facebook page public record would reveal
“trade secrets” about the Times’ social media strategy and would
represent an undue burden on the company because someone would have to be
pulled away from other work to gather the information.
As part of the
denial, Clymer noted the Times is not the only newspaper, or source
of news, in Porter County where potential jurors could have heard about the
case, yet it was the only one named in Brown’s motion.
“The issue is not
how many likes or posts a newspaper has,” Clymer said. “If a juror has
learned information about the case from any source and that information has
caused them to form an opinion or bias, they will not be a juror.”
Clymer repeated the
list of precautions he ruled on in April: jury selection will start early,
and more jurors will be called for selection. The jurors will also be given
an additional questionnaire, that both the defense and prosecution will
approve, to determine their prior knowledge of the case.
“I told Mr. Harper
that Mr. Dillard will get a fair trial, and that will happen,” Clymer said
of the April 12 ruling. Clymer repeated he will reconsider change of venue
if it becomes apparent during jury selection that the jury pool is tainted.
“I’m not convinced at this point that we can’t reach a fair jury panel in
Porter County,” he added.
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