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Indiana Supreme Court upholds McCowan conviction and sentence in murder of Amanda Bach

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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the murder conviction and sentence for Dustin E. McCowan shall be upheld.

McCowan was found guilty two years ago by a jury trial of the September 2011 shooting death of his former girlfriend Amanda Bach, of Portage.

He was sentenced to 60 years in prison by Porter County Superior County Judge William Alexa after the jury delivered a verdict of guilty.

Afterwards, McCowan appealed the conviction on the contention that the court erred in admitting cell phone evidence pertaining to his location at the time of the murder and for failing to recuse itself prior to sentencing based on learning of a post-trial phone call where an acquaintance of McCowan discussed the appropriateness of harm to the children of the prosecutors and lead investigator. The Indiana Appellate Court last April ruled in affirmation of the conviction last April.

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, McCowan made the argument that Alexa erred in not giving his proposed final jury instruction regarding the presumption of innocence continuing throughout the trial. The Supreme Court said that Alexa declined to give McCowan’s proposed instruction but it determined that the substance had been covered in the other instructions.

“The trial court’s final jury instructions were, in relevant part, identical to the preliminary jury instructions,” the ruling said.

The Supreme Court determined that in the “fundamental precepts” that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the “jury instructions adequately encompassed these principals, which was the minimum required by prior precedent, and thus the trial court’s failure to use this precise language was not error.”

However, the ruling states that the trial court “was -- barely -- correct” in refusing McCowan’s final jury instruction and asserting that the instruction was adequately addressed in the previous instructions.

“We do not believe, however, that the trial court in this matter committed an abuse of discretion in providing jury instructions which satisfied the flexible standards of (Robey v. State), given the previous ambiguity in the law,” the Supreme Court said in its conclusion affirming the Appellate Court’s ruling.

McCowan is serving his sentence at the Department of Corrections Facility in Pendleton. His earliest possible release date is Sept. 17, 2041, according to the DOC.

 

 

Posted 3/26/2015

 
 
 
 

 

 

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