FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Jury selection started Monday in the trial of an Indianapolis police officer charged with crashing his squad car into two motorcycles, killing a man and seriously injuring two other people.
The case against David Bisard on reckless homicide and drunken driving charges sparked a long legal fight over the way police handled the crash scene and evidence, which stirred public distrust and contributed to the resignations of the city’s public safety director and police chief.
The trial in Fort Wayne could last two weeks or more as the prosecution and defense spar over whether Bisard was drunk and driving recklessly or merely rushing to catch a criminal when his patrol car plowed into the motorcycles stopped at a traffic light in August 2010.
Marion County prosecutors say Bisard was sending messages on an in-car computer just before the crash and that he was going at 73 mph.
Bisard’s defense attorney will likely argue that Bisard was merely multitasking, as all police officers have to do, John Tompkins, an Indianapolis lawyer who specializes in drunken-driving cases, told The Indianapolis Star.
“He’ll try to show that an officer always has two or three things going on; it’s normal behavior,” Tompkins said. “They are always talking on their radios. This officer had a dog in the car. That’s a distraction, but it’s part of the job.”
Prosecutors are being allowed to present test results from two vials of blood taken from Bisard after the crash, despite defense arguments that one wasn’t properly drawn according to Indiana law and the other was mishandled by police evidence technicians who removed it from refrigerated storage.
Tests on the vials showed Bisard had a blood-alcohol level more than twice Indiana’s legal limit of 0.08 percent. The Indiana Supreme Court in ruled in December that the blood tests could be admitted into evidence.
Lawyer Michael Loomis said the defense can raise questions about the handling of the blood.
“The use of that blood evidence is going to be the central underpinning of the majority of the state’s case,” Loomis told WISH-TV.
The crash killed 30-year-old motorcyclist Eric Wells. Mary Mills, now 50, survived but broke bones throughout her body. She was a passenger on a motorcycle driven by Kurt Weekly, 47, her longtime boyfriend and now husband who 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.
The most serious charge against Bisard is driving and causing death with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher – a felony with a possible prison sentence of six years to 20 years.