Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Judge hears defense motions at McCowan pretrial conference

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Exactly one month before the murder trial for Dustin McCowan is scheduled to begin, Porter County Superior Court Judge William Alexa granted two motions by McCowan’s defense attorneys Friday and will consider several other motions on Wednesday to wrap up pre-trial proceedings.

Motions granted

A series of seven motions were filed by McCowan’s attorneys John Vouga and Nick Barnes. The two accepted by Alexa on Friday were:

• Motion for court order to compel Porter County Jail to produce the entire file on Charles Aaron Wade III.

“Because the credibility and bias of (Wade) will be an issue at trial, and because 404(b) evidence is admissible against witnesses at trial, discovery of the informant’s entire Porter County Jail file is necessary,” stated the motion.

Court records show Wade, a Merrillville resident, pleaded guilty to felony charges in Porter County Superior Court last March of threatening his ex-girlfriend with a knife at her home in Valparaiso.

• To transfer witness Timothy Reeves from the Westville Correctional Facility to the Porter County Jail no later than one week prior to the start of the trail on Monday, Feb. 4.

Vouga would not comment on Reeves’ significance to the case at this time.

Motions pending

The court will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 1:30 p.m. for Alexa to continue determinations on further motions. No restriction will be made of who can be in the courtroom.

From the defense:

• An additional list of witnesses. Nine names are listed including Reeves and any and all witnesses listed by the state.

• A motion to request the court prohibit the State of Indiana from offering statements given by Linda Phillips as evidence.

Vouga and Barnes argue that Phillips’ statements are hearsay and do not fall under any hearsay exceptions that are provided under the Indiana Rules of Evidence 803.

Phillips is a neighbor of McCowan’s who told investigators she heard a male voice outside her home, in the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2011, say “Amanda, get up.”

• A motion to exclude improper argument and questioning by the prosecution.

• A motion to bar the prosecution from presenting autopsy photographs to the jury.

• A motion to exclude reference to the defendant’s silence during questioning by law enforcement officials and to refrain from questioning the defendant or any witnesses called at trial by the defense concerning the defendant’s silence during questioning.

Vouga said after the proceedings that the reason for the motions is to move the trial to its conclusion as quickly as possible by “refining the scope of testimony,” or in other words trim out any unnecessary or repetitive witnesses. With all the costs of holding a trial, Vouga would like to see the trial be done in less than 30 days.

“Nobody wants a trial to last a month,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek along with Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Frost filed the motions from the state including two lists of witnesses adding to the 150 already submitted. The additional witnesses include a custodian of records with Verizon Wireless and an affiliate with the FBI.

Two more motions filed on behalf of the state are a notice of intent to use 404(b) or character evidence regarding an uncharged allegation and to exclude statements made in other cases.

Jury selection

Also on Friday, Alexa set the grounds for how the jury selection at the start of the trial will go on the first and second days of the trial.

On Monday, Feb. 4, the prosecution and the defense will be allowed one-and-a-half to two hours each to select up to 65 potential jurors in the afternoon. Both sides will have Tuesday, Feb. 5 to call 50 potential jurors.

Fourteen will sit in the jury box while the others will sit on the benches.

Alexa said due to fire codes no one will be allowed in the courtroom on those days except the jurors and members of the press.

Daily hours for the trial will be from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except on Mondays and Fridays when Alexa will continue with his regular court in the morning.

Both sides will have one hour to give their opening statements.

The case

McCowan is accused of shooting his former girlfriend Amanda Bach on the morning of Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Investigators found Bach’s body on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in some bushes south of the Canadian National Railroad right-of-way near McCowan’s home in Union Township.

McCowan told investigators that Bach had been visiting him and left his home around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 16. Her vehicle was discovered with a flat tire at Dean’s General Store on Ind. 130 around 3:23 a.m.

An autopsy determined that Bach had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the throat.

 

 

Posted 1/7/2013