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.
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.