After a whirlwind month of court filings and reports of an evidence leak, a judge will convene a hearing Thursday in the Delphi murder case.
Richard Allen is charged with two counts of murder in the February 2017 deaths of Abby Williams and Libby German near the Monon High Bridge in Delphi.
Indiana State Police announced Allen’s arrest nearly a year ago. The key piece of evidence is an unspent bullet found at the crime scene that prosecutors claim was ejected from a handgun owned by Allen.
The case is scheduled to go to trial in January 2024, but Thursday’s hearing could provide some insight into whether it will be able to proceed on schedule.
Last week, Special Judge Fran Gull called for the Oct. 19 hearing in Allen County, saying the purpose of the proceeding was to discuss an upcoming Oct. 31 hearing and “other matters which have recently arisen.” Gull ordered Allen’s defense team and the state to “arrange their schedules” to attend.
The judge issued a transport order to move Allen from Westville Correctional Facility to the courthouse. Unlike other proceedings in the case, which were held in Carroll County, Thursday’s hearing will take place in Allen County.
There are several recent developments to consider regarding the Delphi murders.
Cameras allowed in courtroom
For the first time in the Delphi case, cameras will be permitted inside the courtroom after Gull issued an order authorizing their use. This will work as a pool feed.
Gull’s order does not allow the proceedings to be livestreamed. The court will not permit photography of the hearing.
For years, cameras have not been allowed in Indiana courtrooms. However, that changed with an order amending the Code of Judicial Conduct, which had previously prohibited broadcasting, photography or recording in court,
After a four-month pilot program, judicial officers were granted the ability to allow news media to record, photograph and broadcast non-confidential court proceedings. The new rule went into effect on May 1, 2023.
Gull was one of the judges involved in the pilot program.
Whether or not proceedings can be broadcast, recorded or photographed is up to a judge’s discretion. By rule, cameras are prohibited in the courtroom unless the judge allows them. A judge can also revoke authorization “at any time for any reason.”
Allen’s defense attorneys filed a previous motion advocating for a pool feed during the proceedings. The state, however, didn’t support the idea, expressing “serious concerns” about allowing cameras into the proceedings of a case that’s captured national attention.
Franks hearing and search warrant
Allen’s defense team requested a Franks hearing. Defendants can request such a proceeding if they believe investigators included a false statement—knowingly, intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth—in order to justify and obtain a search warrant.
In September, Allen’s attorneys filed an amended motion to suppress seeking to have the search warrant granted for Allen’s home thrown out. The motion claimed the warrant was invalid and all evidence should be suppressed.
His attorneys argued that law enforcement lacked probable cause to obtain the warrant and questioned the constitutionality of the search.
In a subsequent September filing requesting the Franks hearing, Allen’s defense attorneys argued that the search warrant shouldn’t have been granted in the first place. They claimed certain details described by witnesses didn’t match what appeared in the search warrant Carroll County Sheriff Tony Liggett submitted to Carroll County Judge Benjamin Diener in October 2022.
Their main contentions involve witness descriptions of a vehicle seen outside a building and discrepancies in witness accounts of a man seen walking in the area. The defense alleged Liggett “acted intentionally or recklessly when he omitted, or lied, about information” contained with the affidavit when applying for the search warrant.
Contained within the Franks hearing filing was the defense’s alternative theory that the girls were killed in “ritualistic” fashion by adherents of a white supremacist cult called “Odinism.”
From what has been released to the public, the prosecution’s case hinges on an unfired bullet discovered between the girls’ bodies. The probable cause affidavit said the Indiana State Police crime laboratory determined the bullet had been ejected from a Sig Sauer P226 owned by Allen.
A “motion in limine” filed by the defense back in June is sealed. It’s a pretrial motion asking that certain evidence be ruled as inadmissible at trial.
Due to the confidential nature of the filing, it’s hard to say specifically what the defense is asking the court to throw out.
Court records indicate, however, that the motion involves “ballistics.” In a statement released in December, the defense contended that the “discipline of tool-mark identification (ballistics)” used in the case was “anything but a science.” The attorneys called the method “unreliable and lacking any scientific validity.”
Gull has yet to rule on the motion.
Subpoena for Allen’s health records
Also before the court is a request from Allen’s defense team to deny the prosecution access to their client’s medical and mental health records.
Last month, Carroll County Prosecutor Nick McLeland subpoenaed Allen’s health records from his time in captivity at Westville Correctional Facility, where Allen has been held since Nov. 3, 2022.
Allen’s attorneys characterized the subpoenas as “unreasonable and oppressive.” They also expressed doubts that the records would “lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”
Allen’s attorneys again requested their client be moved from Westville Correctional to another facility, such as the White County Jail or Cass County Jail.
In April, the defense claimed Allen’s mental and physical wellbeing have declined during his time in captivity. They said he’s been isolated in a small cell. From a logistical standpoint, traveling to see their client is a challenge, impairing their ability to prepare their case.
They argued Allen—who is charged with a crime and awaiting trial—is being treated “less favorably” than convicted criminals housed at the same facility.
During a July hearing, Gull concluded Allen was treated “more favorably” than other inmates and denied the request to have him moved elsewhere.
Despite the ruling, Allen’s attorneys would still like him moved to a different facility. They suggested some of the guards overseeing Allen had ties to Odinism and purportedly wore patches showing their allegiance to the belief system.
In sworn affidavits filed earlier this month, guards said they had no ties to white supremacy or Odinism. They acknowledged wearing patches and removing them at the behest of their superiors, adding that the patches were religious in nature and not related to a cult or hate group.
Allen’s defense team accused Westville guards of mistreating and intimidating Allen. The state’s response filed in October said guards used a Taser on Allen on two occasions, not out of intimidation, but because he didn’t comply with orders.
Evidence leak under scrutiny
Perhaps the most pressing issue facing the court is the alleged leak of key evidence in the Delphi murder case.
As initially reported by The Murder Sheet podcast and partially confirmed by FOX59/CBS4, a former employee of one of Allen’s lawyers accessed evidence that the defense team received under discovery from the state.
That information made it into the hands of a Fishers man who was active on Facebook sharing messages with at least one other person following the case. The evidence then ended up being leaked via social media.
Hosts of The Murder Sheet podcast learned about the leak from a social media source. They contacted Indiana State Police investigators about the possible release of sensitive evidence in the criminal case.
Indiana State Police are reportedly looking into the matter.
During the spring, an inadvertent leak of evidence also appeared on social media, earning an admonishment from the court for the defense to more carefully handle discovery evidence.
The case has been under a gag order since December 2022, when Allen’s attorneys attempted to rip apart the prosecution’s case in a three-page press release. In response, Gull barred anyone associated with the case from talking about it in public.