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Officer’s fate goes to jury in DWI case

Bisard

David Bisard will have to wait another night to find out his fate.

So, too, will the family of a dead man and the families of two others severely injured in a crash involving the Indianapolis police officer.

Of this there is no doubt:

Bisard’s squad car plowed into three motorcyclists at a stoplight on Aug. 6, 2010, at the intersection of 56th Street and Brendon Way in Indianapolis.

Now the question is:

Did Marion County prosecutors prove to an Allen Superior Court jury he was drunk and reckless when he did so?

Bisard is facing trial on a spate of felonies, including reckless homicide, driving while intoxicated causing death and criminal recklessness.

Jurors deliberated several hours Monday night before retiring to a hotel without reaching a verdict.

They will begin deliberating again this morning, according to court officials.

Bisard’s trial, which attracted heavy publicity in the state’s capital, was moved to Allen County to better the chances of assembling an unbiased jury.

An almost circuslike atmosphere has pervaded the proceedings at times.

Television and newspaper crews from Indianapolis have been a constant presence, as have been their cameras and trucks.

Lawyers have fought to omit evidence and include evidence; motions for nearly every detail have been filed.

There has even been an air of controversy at some points.

Last month, Indianapolis police were found to be sending summaries of witness testimony to the department’s top brass, one of whom was a witness in the proceedings.

That violated the court’s separation of witnesses, but Judge John F. Surbeck ultimately ruled the emails did not reveal anything that could cause problems.

Even Monday – when the jury was only scheduled to hear closing arguments – court officials could not avoid a major hiccup.

One juror did research on blood draws – a pivotal topic concerning the trial – sometime before the weekend.

He did this despite three weeks of warnings from Surbeck that jurors not were not to do any independent research involving the case.

The juror admitted to talking about what he found with fellow jurors.

Surbeck admonished the juror before dismissing him Monday morning.

The other jurors had to be questioned individually to ensure they were not affected by the information the juror found online.

In closing arguments, Marion County prosecutors painted a gruesome picture of the scene they say Bisard caused.

He was driving as fast as 76 mph with lights and sirens going on a non-emergency run, accelerating on 56th Street as he approached Brendon Way.

Bisard’s squad car plowed into three motorcyclists stopped at a red light, sending one of them, Eric Wells, flying through the air.

“They were doing everything right,” deputy prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth said of the motorcyclists.

“They did what they were supposed to do, which was stay put.”

Hollingsworth described how one witness could only hear the roar of Bisard’s engine before it rammed into the group.

He described how the entire scene smelled overwhelmingly of antifreeze as it leaked from Bisard’s squad car, and how the officer walked out of the car and wandered around the carnage with his arms folded.

Hollingsworth said the officer did this while others were strewn about in the wreckage.

One man would need his skull cap removed to reduce swelling in his brain; another woman was “broken into pieces,” Hollingsworth said.

And Wells was dead.

“That defendant and solely that defendant caused that collision,” Hollingsworth told jurors. “The photos don’t do justice to what the scene was like.”

A blood draw taken from Bisard, hours after the crash, showed his blood-alcohol content at 0.19 percent – twice the legal limit.

His defense team zeroed in on how this blood draw was conducted, trying to plant in the jurors’ minds that there were many opportunities for it to be tainted.

There were questions on how it was stored:

Was it always refrigerated? Was it properly sealed? Who had access to it and when?

The answers, according to the defense attorneys, were: No. No. Who knows?

The defense attorneys pointed to multiple witnesses at the scene – many in law enforcement – who said Bisard showed no signs of intoxication.

Lead defense attorney John Kautzman asked the jury not to “trash” the testimony of those people.

He also said Bisard did indeed help others at the scene.

“The state has been trying to convict David Bisard on an absence of evidence,” Kautzman said.

Kautzman also asked the jurors if they wanted to convict Bisard based on the blood draw, which he never missed a beat to call into question.

Today, he’ll likely receive his answer.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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