David Bisard trial: Rich Van Wyk's blog

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WTHR reporter Rich Van Wyk is covering the trial of Indianapolis Metro Police Officer David Bisard, who faces nine criminal counts for crashing his squad car into a group of motorcyclists who were stopped at a red light in August 2010.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Reality TV

Jury deliberations take the criminal trial of Officer Bisard into its 4th week. Friends have asked what keeps us busy every day of every week. Here's a breakdown of a typical day.

7:10 AM We're on our way to the Allen County courthouse.  Russ (a very tall and very good photographer) is making his umpteenth mental check, making sure we didn't leave anything at the hotel.  I'm calling the Sunrise News producer to make sure our report filed the night before aired without problems.  Next, a call to the Noon news producer. We discuss what's expected to happen in court today and what we'll cover at noon.

7:30 We're hauling about 125 lbs. of computer and camera gear into a media work area graciously given us off the courthouse rotunda. Folding chairs folding tables, power strips and restrooms are 40 ft. away.  Heaven! 

8:00 We photograph and video the evidence admitted in court the day before.  There are documents, photos, and, on some days, video.

8:15 Russ is in his appointed place to video David Bisard's daily walk from jail to court.  Reporting rule #1: the morning we pass on our only chance to photograph Bisard is the day something extraordinary occurs.

8:30 Russ is "shooting" attorneys, families of the victims and the accused, as well witnesses arriving.  See rule #1.  I'm Tweeting, Facebooking, and emailing evidence photos and information to our news room internet Goddess Sara.

8:50 There's an overdue trip to the courthouse's only public men's room and a quick climb up 3 flights of stairs.  There's an elevator, but I need exercise.

9:00 Court starts promptly.  Judge John Surbeck doesn't waste time. No cellphones, but laptops are allowed. Reporters take notes, but for security reasons may not email, tweet, or communicate in any way with anyone, unless we are in our 1st floor media work area.

10:30ish There is a short recess, 10 or 15 minutes.  It's a quick run downstairs.  Russ and I talk about the video he's edited and sent to the newsroom, what else I may need for the noon report and any messages from producers.  I'm checking emails, Tweeting courtroom quotes as quickly as my clumsy fingers permit, race to the men's room, and then back upstairs.

11:00ish Recess is over.  Reporters and other spectators may enter the court room only during recesses or when new witnesses are called in to testify. One day a bunch of us were a few minutes late and were "locked out" along with Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry and his staff.  Reporting Rule #2: the testimony you don't hear is likely the most important testimony of the day.

11:40 I leave court quietly, trot downstairs, talk with Russ, and make any necessary changes for the noon report.

Noon We're outside the courthouse.  Breathe slowly, think, focus. The high tech cell phone like gadget on the camera is sending us live into the news room and thousands of central Indiana homes.

12:15 PM Court is usually recessing.  When possible we interview witnesses.  Russ runs out for lunch. Take out places are nearby, but nowhere near healthy. I'm trying to Tweet, check emails, tell the 5 and 6pm news producers what's happening and send witnesses' quotes to our graphics producer/God Steve, all while keeping mayo and mustard off my tie.

1:15ish Back in court, I'm taking notes and quotes from the testimony while writing a 5pm news script.

2:30 There's a 10 or 15 minute recess.  Russ is waiting in the media area for me to rush in, record my script, send copies to him and the producer.  Maybe there's time for a tweet and a sprint to the rest room before running (more slowly) upstairs.  Russ goes to work editing our report.

2:45ish Back in court, taking notes, quotes and now working on a 6pm script.

4:30 At the latest I tiptoe out of court, meet Russ, record the 6pm news script, email additional graphics and prepare for the 5pm live news report.  He's already sent the recorded part of our story back the newsroom.  An editor there is inserting the necessary graphics and I'm looking for my makeup (as if it does any good)

5:00 We're outside, reporting live.

5:10 Back inside the work area, Russ is now editing our 6pm report.  Court is usually still in session.  I'll go back upstairs, see if I can get in and see what's going on.

5:40 Back in the media area preparing the 6pm news.  We've been lucky.  Cell phone technology that transmits our recorded video to the news room is working as advertised.  No glitches.

6:00 If court is recessed, and the jury has left the building, we may go live from the media work area.  We don't want witnesses, the defense or prosecutor's to leave and miss our chance to interview the.

6:15 Our live report is done.  We're probably grabbing quick interview.  We are definitely working on a short summary of the day for the 11PM news, and another report looking ahead to what's expected the next day.  It will air during the Sunrise news. Russ edits one report, while I'm writing the next.  It's teamwork in our daily game of beat the clock.

7:00 When we haven't left by now, the courthouse security staff politely reminds us it's closing time.  We're usually all packed up.  But some days the laptop is still "sending" our report as we carry it to the car or Russ has finished editing and sending after dinner at the hotel.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Criminal trials are about much more than the law, the evidence, the judge's rulings and attorneys legal strategies.  There is the people factor.  The personalities, emotions and demeanor of all the judicial players as well as those of the victims, their families and the accused, are all there for jurors so see and judge.  What do they see from David Bisard?  I don't know.  The suspended IMPD officer is for the most part expressionless.

On his daily walk to the courthouse, Bisard says not a word to reporters or TV cameras. There's not a smile.  Not a scowl.  Nothing.  He wears the same striped jail jump suit and expressionless face every morning.  Since his first court appearance more than 3 years ago Bisard has gained weight, perhaps 30 pounds.  His once quick and confident steps are slowed.

Bisard arrives in court ahead of the judge and jury, dressed in a jacket and tie.  He'll give a quick, small wave to family members sitting ten feet away, but says nothing out loud.  One day Judge John Surbeck made a point of greeting Bisard with an energetic "good morning".  He replied with a surprised and simple "hello."  It is among the few times I've heard his voice.

During court Bisard avoids any prolonged eye contact with witnesses, jurors, or spectators.  His attention appears to move around the room, but he remains very focused and  aware of what's being said about him, the victims and the evidence.  Bisard frequently leans toward one of his attorneys, asking a question or pointing out something in a document.

When a new witness takes the stand, he sits up and raises his head, making it easier for the witness to identify him for the court record.

In his opening statement to jurors, chief defense counsel John Kautzman said Bisard may or may not testify.  Given the huge legal risks, it's doubtful he would take the witness stand and subject himself to a no doubt brutal cross examination by prosecutors.

In a criminal case Indianapolis has been talking about for years, it looks unlikely we'll hear any more than what we are seeing from David Bisard.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The trial of suspended IMPD Officer David Bisard is taking place in perhaps the most ornate courtroom I've ever seen.  The towering ceiling is artwork.  The walls are made of marble.  Doorways are framed with huge columns.  Reliefs cast in bronze? Dozens of them decorate the walls.  The intricate trim work is covered in gold, and various hues of green and rose.

My architect brother could no doubt educate me as to the period, style and significance of everything I'm seeing.  Hopefully I'll have time to read some of the informational materials posted around the Allen County Courthouse. 

Court is back in session.  Everyone is again focusing on what we are all here for. 

Jury selection is complete.  The trial commences Wednesday morning.

Watch Eyewitness News for updates on the trial.