David Bisard found guilty on nine counts
A jury has found suspended IMPD Officer David Bisard guilty on all nine counts in his drunk driving trial.
Bisard will be sentenced on November 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry says Bisard faces a minimum of six years in prison.
"Obviously we are very pleased with the verdict. But it's important to first note that there is no reason to celebrate today," said Curry.
Jurors chose scientific evidence showing Bisard was intoxicated over the testimony of dozens of witnesses who told jurors he appeared completely sober.
The verdict ended a three-year ordeal that took down a police chief and caused the community to doubt its police department.
"The events of August 6, 2010 were without question and tragedy for every single person involved," Curry said.
Just before 2:00 pm, David Bisard entered the courtroom to hear the jury's verdict. Bisard showed no emotion and lowered his head, until his wife became visibly upset. Bisard then looked at his wife, Laura, and mouthed words to her.
Before the jury entered the room, Judge John Surbeck reminded the courtroom not to display feelings about the verdict. Minutes before the verdict was read, crash victim Mary Mills walked into the courtroom. Aaron and Mary Wells, whose son, Eric Wells was killed in the crash, were also in the room.
The families had their arms around each other, bracing themselves hear the verdict.
As Judge Surbeck read the jury's verdict, Bisard shook his head and his wife sobbed. There was hugging on both sides of the aisle - among victims' family and supporters and among Bisard's family.
Bisard was found guilty of:
Count 1: Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .15 or higher causing death; B felony
Count 2: Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death; C felony
Count 3: Reckless homicide; C felony
Count 4: Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury; D felony
Count 5: Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher causing serious bodily injury; D felony
Count 6: Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury; D felony
Count 7: Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher causing serious bodily injury; D felony
Counts 8 & 9: Criminal recklessness; D felony
Officer Bisard was tried for causing a deadly crash that claimed the life of Eric Wells and critically injured two of his friends, Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly, while the three motorcyclists were waiting at a red light.
Bisard was driving 76 mph at the time of the crash on August 6, 2010, and blood tests showed he had a blood alcohol content of .19. The defense disputed the validity of those tests, arguing that the way the evidence was handled should have called the results into doubt. In fact, initial charges related to drunk driving were thrown out on a technicality, but later the results were allowed as evidence in the case.
Over a dozen witnesses testified that Bisard showed no signs of intoxication at the crash scene or afterwards. But expert witnesses said some people who are used to consuming large amounts of alcohol may not necessarily appear drunk.
Eric Wells was died in the crash. His parents, Aaron and Mary, spoke after the trial was over.
"Justice. Truth. And that's something that we prayed very hard for for three years. To be able to walk out of this courthouse with a little bit of peace in our hearts and in our minds knowing justice was served. Our son is gone forever. But David Bisard we can only hope will receive the help he needs that he never again hurts of takes another life. We leave here and go home to Florida with peace in our minds," said Aaron Wells.
"We move on to the next chapter and have Eric in our hearts we will be able to start the next step in our lives but we will always have his memory. Now we can celebrate and will not have to come back and we can finally have some peace," said Mary Wells.
Aaron Wells said the court hearings have taken their toll on his family. "I wonder if we could be knocked down any further than we have been, but we survived that and it's just hard. And the Bisard family as well - it's taken its toll there. As we've all said on both sides, there are no winners. So we leave this courthouse today knowing justice has been served," he said.
Mary Mills was critically injured in the crash, along with her husband Kurt Weekly. Mills said her husband is still suffering from memory problems. She said he had expected Bisard to "get away with it." Mills still struggles with day-to-day tasks and finds it hard to stand. Despite her lasting injuries, Mills insisted she does not want Bisard to serve the maximum sentence.
The victims all embraced as they were leaving the courthouse.
Mary Mills pointed out they only have to make one more trip to the courthouse.
"Finally after all this time. All we asked for was justice, and I believe we finally got it. With all that has happened it still came through with a guilty verdict and that's what I was looking for," said Mills. "Now we don't have to worry about every other month coming back to court and wondering what's next?"
Mills added, "The thought of [Officer Bisard] getting the help he needs and not being to hurt anyone else, that's really good."
George Burt was another motorcyclist who witnessed the crash. He was nearly struck that day.
"I feel justice has been done. It finally shows what out legal system does and it shows that the prosecutors and the state did their job," he said.
Bisard Leaves the Courthouse
Bisard was taken away from the courthouse wearing a prison jumpsuit. Eyewitness News reporter David MacAnally asked Bisard if he had anything to say. Bisard responded "That's a stupid question."
MacAnally asked if he had a anything to say to the victims, and Bisard said, "I'm sorry."
"Did he say he was sorry? I didn't hear that. He didn't say it to me. What is he sorry for to his wife or to his kids? To me, to Luisa, to Kurt? What exactly is he sorry for? I don't know what he's sorry for and it wasn't said to me," said Mary Mills.
"Do I feel bad for him? Yes, I do, but we've been put through a lot worse than what they are going through," she added.
All of the jurors declined to speak to the media.
Defense attorney John Kautzman respected but disagreed with the verdict.
"Obviously we are very disappointed. My client is devastated, as you can imagine, as his family is as well. And as we said repeatedly said throughout this case, regardless of the outcome, there's going to be no winners in this case," said Kautzman.
The jury began deliberations Monday but did not reach a verdict. On Tuesday, they returned to court at 9:00 am.
By noon on Tuesday, the jury had sent out a few questions to attorneys. They also asked to listen to a radio transmission.
Jurors were sequestered in a Fort Wayne hotel. They had to avoid any media coverage of the case. That's why this trial was moved to Ft. Wayne from Indianapolis. But the local Fort Wayne media was also covering the trial, so jurors were not allowed to watch the news or read a newspaper.
Another juror was dismissed Monday morning and Judge John Surbeck was close to declaring a mistrial.
It was a shocking surprise when the judge singled out the juror Monday. The juror ignored daily warnings from the judge that they should not talk about the case or do any research about it. In the end, the juror admitted to conducting an online search of about 500 DUI cases in Illinois that had been overturned.
The court learned that juror number 12 did some research on his own Thursday night. He announced his findings Friday morning.
The juror Googled information about blood-alcohol testing machines and convictions that have been overturned in Illinois. The judge immediately dismissed the juror.
Judge Surbeck then questioned each juror and one alternate. Some did not hear the juror's remarks Friday. Jurors who heard the remarks assured the judge they could put them aside and focus entirely on testimony and evidence in court.
However, one juror admitted the information would be in the back of her mind. She said, "I think my decision will be based on what I heard here by witnesses and counsel."
It took about an hour for the judge to question all of the jurors about their ability to remain impartial. The judge considered ruling a mistrial in the case, a close call for the prosecution.
"Eric Wells' mom was sobbing, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to have to go through it all again'," said George Burt.
Burt was riding with the three motorcyclists Bisard ran into in August 2010. Two were hurt, Eric Wells was killed.
"It was reckless," Burt said.
On Monday, Deputy Prosecutor Mike Hollingsworth led jurors step by step through the morning of August 6, 2010, including the controversial blood testing and investigation. At issue is what witnesses observed versus what the blood tests showed.
Hollingsworth argued there were signs of intoxication but that police officers at the scene were predisposed not to consider that Bisard might have been drunk. He also argued that other odors present at the scene - including antifreeze and engine oil - may have overpowered the odor of alcohol on Bisard's person.
Witnesses also testified that Bisard walked around with his arms folded after the crash and appeared to be disengaged, and that he was joking about getting an elephant ear for lunch just before the crash.
Jack Crawford, a defense expert who is not part of the Bisard case, watched closing arguments Monday.
"The defense did a miraculous job today. They created reasonable doubt on the state's evidence," Crawford said. "They said all the blood evidence is garbage. The jury heard 39 people who witnessed Bisard within two hours of the accident and all 39 said he wasn't drunk."
Another juror was dismissed just before the trial got underway weeks ago and a second juror was dismissed due to a work issue. The final alternate has been seated. That leaves the trial with no alternate jurors as the jury is set to begin deliberations after hearing closing arguments.