ILNews

Ball State shooting trial starts Tuesday

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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An excessive force and wrongful death trial starts in federal court Tuesday involving a Ball State police officer's shooting of a college student about four years ago.

Jury selection begins Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis in McKinney v. Duplain. The 21-year-old Michael McKinney was shot four times by campus officer Robert Duplain, who was responding to a report of a stranger pounding on the door of a house early on Nov. 8, 2003. Tests later showed that McKinney had a blood alcohol content of 0.34 percent.

A grand jury and internal police investigation later cleared Duplain of any wrongdoing in the shooting, but McKinney's parents filed suit in early 2004 on grounds of unreasonable excessive force and wrongful death. The suit asks for $750,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, along with more that could be secured from "the loss of love and companionship" not subject to any damages cap.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young has ruled that the key issues in the trial will center on what happened, specifically whether McKinney charged Duplain, whether Duplain sufficiently alerted McKinney to his presence, and whether Duplain acted reasonably in shooting McKinney four times.

Trial briefs submitted Friday by both sides' attorneys show differing accounts of what happened. While the plaintiffs' brief recaps a history of what happened, the defense brief states that as being "unnecessary" and focuses instead on evidentiary and jury issues likely to come up.

Defense attorneys have asked Judge Young to order McKinney's attorneys to refrain from stating during the trial that McKinney was "shot in the back" because they contend that isn't the case. Defense attorneys also assert that no reference should be made during the trial to McKinney being "unarmed" because Duplain did not know at the time whether McKinney was armed.

One of the lawyers involved in this case is Michigan attorney Geoffrey N. Fieger, who is representing McKinney's parents and is known for his representation of assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian in the 1990s. Two other attorneys from his firm, Fieger Fieger Kenney & Johnson, are listed in court records.

Litigation is expected to start Tuesday, and the court has set aside 10 days for the trial.
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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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