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Appellate court split on ordering new trial for mom

March 21, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a woman convicted of killing her son by setting fire to their home in 1996 receive a new trial, although one judge believed she did not meet her burden to prevail on appeal from the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief.

Chief Judge Margret Robb and Edward Najam reversed the denial of Kristine Bunch’s petition for post-conviction relief. Bunch was sentenced to 60 years for the murder of her son, Anthony. The state claimed she set the fire in their mobile home and some evidence showed accelerating material present in samples taken from the home. In 2006, she began pursuing post-conviction relief, claiming, among other things, newly discovered evidence in the form of advances in the field of fire science and a violation of due process by the state in failing to disclose certain evidence. The post-conviction court denied the petition in 2010.

In Kristine Bunch v. State of Indiana, No. 16A05-1007-PC-439, the majority determined the post-conviction court erred in determining she wasn’t entitled to a new trial on the basis of the fire victim toxicology analysis evidence because that evidence meets each of the nine requirements to be newly discovered evidence. They also found the post-conviction court clearly erred in concluding there was no Brady violation in the state’s failure to disclose material exculpatory or impeaching evidence to Bunch prior to trial. Based on these two issues, she is entitled to a new trial, wrote Robb.

Judge Terry Crone wrote a 14-page dissent in which he did not believe Bunch met her burden to prevail on her appeal of the denial of post-conviction relief. She didn’t show that the evidence as a whole leads unerringly and unmistakably to a conclusion opposite of what the post-conviction court reached.

 

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