Allen County Superior Court Judge John Surbeck blasted the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday after learning that a police major had been emailing department leaders daily summaries of the reckless homicide and drunken driving trial of one of the citys officers.
The summaries of officer David Bisards trial went to five Indianapolis public safety leaders, including Police Chief Rick Hite and Deputy Chief Val Cunningham, who is a potential witness, the Indianapolis Star reported.
This is about as unprofessional as anything Ive ever seen, the judge said.
Surbeck is presiding over the trial of Bisard, who is accused of driving drunk while on duty and causing a 2010 crash that killed a motorcyclist and badly injured two others. The trial was moved to Allen County because of extensive media coverage in Indianapolis.
The emails are the latest issue to mar the case, which has been plagued by allegations of mishandled evidence, resignations and demotions, lawsuits and secret recordings.
The emails were sent by Maj. Greg Bieberich, who was in the courtroom watching the trial. Surbeck questioned Bierberich in court about the emails and suggested he might call Hite to testify to explain them.
IMPD spokesman Chris Bailey said the department was working with the court on this issue but declined further comment.
Indianapolis attorney Jack Crawford, who is not involved in the case, said the email summaries violate basic courtroom instructions and could lead to a mistrial if Surbeck thinks they interfere.
When the trial starts, the judge admonishes both sides to instruct all witnesses that they are not to try and gain information about what other witnesses have testified to at the trial before they testify, Crawford said.
These are experienced police officers. They know you cant do that – you cant inform witnesses of whats been said at the trial. Every officer thats ever been involved in a trial knows that.
... It suggests that the police are trying to, in some way, interfere with the process, Crawford said.
The 2010 crash killed motorcyclist Eric Wells and badly injured Mary Mills, now 50, and her husband, Kurt Weekly, 47. Mills had broken bones throughout her body, and Weekly spent a month in a coma.
The city of Indianapolis paid $1.5 million to the Wells family, $1.3 million to Weekly and $975,000 to Mills to settle lawsuits in the crash.