INDIANAPOLIS — Attorneys for Richard Allen have filed another brief with the Indiana Supreme Court asking them to throw Special Judge Fran Gull off the case.
This Writ of Mandamus was filed by two attorneys not directly affiliated with the case against Richard Allen, alleging Judge Fran Gull has ruled against Allen’s constitutional rights and that she should be replaced.
The defense team is citing Allen’s right to a speedy trial under Indiana law.
Judge Gull took over and replaced the original judge to bring stability after the highly-publicized arrest of the suspected killer five and a half years after the bodies of Abby Williams and Libby German were found dead of stab wounds in a wooded area near the Monon High Bridge outside of Delphi.
The original defense team for Allen ran into conflict with Judge Gull with what they admitted was a “zealous” defense and a couple of inadvertent evidence leaks, one confirmed in late September.
The September leak included crime scene photographs to social media posters and reportedly led to one leaker’s suicide.
Judge Gull said she found the attorneys to be grossly negligent and ordered their removal from the case after a televised October hearing.
Other attorneys have petitioned the Supreme Court to reinstate former court-appointed defense team, Andrew Baldwin and Bradley Rozzi to the case.
They stated, “In order to protect Allen’s constitutional right to a speedy trial” the high court should replace Judge Gull for her alleged prejudice and bias towards Allen and release the transcripts of a closed-door meeting with the judge and previous attorneys.
The meeting in Fort Wayne was where the judge reportedly threatened to ruin the attorneys’ professional reputations by detailing what she believed was “gross negligence” in open court, the new filing argues.
The judge also set a new trial date in the case after appointing new defense attorneys, Robert Scremin and William S. Lebrato. The trial was set to take place between Oct. 15 and Nov. 1, 2024.
Previous reports showed attorneys already filed a brief with the Indiana Supreme Court to question Judge Gull’s oversight of the case, claiming she violated public access by keeping several filings secret.
Just as recently as the weekend, Judge Gull asked the Indiana Supreme Court to grant her more time to file a response to the petition.
The new date was granted for Nov. 16.
The writ refers not only to Allen’s speedy trial strategy but also a theory to be presented at trial that a “third party” committed the murders and that his new defense team appointed by Judge Gull may discard the original lawyers’ work or it could be summarily dismissed by the Court before receiving a hearing.
The attorneys are seeking a stay from the high court until the issues can be sorted out so as to not restrict Allen’s rights.
The unaffiliated lawyers are also releasing a transcript of the behind-closed-doors discussion in Judge Gull’s chambers in Allen County on Oct. 19 when she reportedly told the defense team she would pronounce them grossly negligent in open court if they did not resign the case.
Attorneys Mark Leeman of Logansport and Cara Wieneke of Brooklyn added that while both international media and Hoosiers may be paying unprecedented attention to the progress of this case, “the public will question the judge’s impartiality with respect to her rulings. To restore the public’s trust in the integrity of the judicial process in this high-profile case, a new special judge should be appointed.”
This latest courtroom confrontation was put in motion more than a month ago when it was learned that a former associate of Baldwin’s had gained unauthorized access to sensitive crime scene evidence and leaked it onto a Delphi social media poster which then shared it with other social media followers.
The man who received that information and passed it on later took his own life after being questioned by Indiana State Police troopers.
An affidavit from the original leaker, Mitchell Westerman, included in today’s filings, admits he gained access to a conference room at Baldwin’s office and, “I observed printed copies of photo evidence on the conference room table. I took pictures of a few of them.”
Westerman wrote that Baldwin did not have knowledge of the leak.
A Tippecanoe County public defender not affiliated with the case told Fox 59 News that the Indiana Supreme Court is now on a strict timetable to issue rulings regarding the reinstatements of Rozzi and Baldwin, consideration of Allen’s demand for a speedy trial, recusal of Judge Gull and questions stemming from the special judge’s management of the case docket with consideration of public access.
” It’s probably best to have someone newly appointed,” said Shay Hughes. ”It’s a tight time frame, right? Ultimately the removal of counsel takes place and it puts Allen in jeopardy because new counsel requests a continuance and the trial gets pushed back almost a year later to October of 2024.”
Hughes said the Supreme Court could find that Judge Gull did not have the authority to overrule Allen’s stated wishes to have Baldwin and Rozzi continue as his defense team.
”Gross Negligence is a standard that’s used for civil liability. I’ve never seen it used to disqualify an attorney from a criminal case. Even with that said, a court has limited ability to remove an attorney from a case even if they are court-appointed and even less so when they are appointed on its own accord,” said Hughes. ”The test for recusal is whether an objective person would have a reasonable basis for doubting the judge’s impartiality.”
Last Friday, Chief Justice Loretta Rush issued an Order granting Judge Gull’s request to delay her response until Nov. 16 to a Writ of Mandamus filed by outside attorneys regarding her handling of the court docket.
Judge Gull wrote that she needed the extra time to bring Indianapolis attorney Matthew Gutwein on board to represent her before the Supreme Court following the Indiana Attorney General’s decision to no longer defend the specially appointed Fort Wayne jurist.