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COA rules trial court erred in suppressing blood evidence in Bisard case

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The blood of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer accused of driving drunk and killing one motorcyclist and injuring two others should be allowed at his trial for reckless homicide and other alcohol-related charges, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday morning on interlocutory appeal.  

Senior Judge Randall Shepard authored the unanimous 21-page decision in which the appellate court found that the medical assistant who drew David Bisard’s blood did so in a way that followed physician-approved protocols. Bisard moved to suppress the blood test, claiming that Michelle Maga hadn’t followed appropriate protocols and Indiana Code prohibits medical assistants from drawing blood for the purposes of his case.

Bisard was on duty in his patrol car in August 2010 when he hit two motorcycles stopped at an intersection in Indianapolis. Eric Wells died, and Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly were seriously injured. Bisard was taken to Methodist Occupational Health Center where he consented to the blood draw which was performed by Maga.

Test results showed a blood alcohol content of 0.19. Bisard was initially charged with several alcohol-related charges, including Class B felony operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.15 or higher causing death, and reckless homicide. But then-Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi dismissed the alcohol-related charges. When newly elected prosecutor Terry Curry took office, he re-filed six operating while intoxicated charges.

Marion Superior Judge Grant Hawkins in May 2011 found that Maga wasn’t qualified to draw blood under the state’s implied consent statutes, there was no clear evidence she followed any of MOHC’s protocols for drawing blood, there was conflicting evidence if the tubes of blood were properly handled, and there were questions whether the blood was drawn from the right arm which Maga had inadvertently swabbed with alcohol or the left arm that she swabbed using the proper cleansing solution.

Hawkins did not allow the evidence for the DUI charges, but allowed it for the reckless homicide count.

Indiana Code 9-30-6 and -7 indicate that blood evidence is generally admissible subject to rules of evidence, Shepard wrote, and the spirit of the Indiana Rules of Evidence is to allow any relevant evidence, unless barred by Rule 403. Rule 403 has not been implicated in this case, he wrote.

Maga’s taking of Bisard’s blood conformed to a protocol prepared by a physician, the judges ruled, and Maga testified that she did gently invert the tubes eight to 10 times to mix the blood as required and that she drew his blood from the arm swabbed with the proper cleansing solution. An affidavit from an officer who did not witness the blood draw said another officer told him that Maga took the blood from the wrong arm, but “a probable cause affidavit signed by someone who was not present holds little to no weight on this point,” Shepard wrote.

The judges also found that the fact the person who draws the blood is not on the list in subsection I.C. 9-30-6-6(j) does not compel suppression.

“This is not to say that anyone may draw blood or that it may be drawn in any manner. Rather, subsection (j) tells us that blood may be drawn at a licensed hospital or by certain people if not at a licensed hospital. To the extent that someone else draws blood, the evidence must show that the person is properly trained and performed the draw in a medically acceptable manner. Here, Maga had been trained to obtain bodily substance samples and performed blood draws every day in her position as a medical assistant,” he wrote.

The judges also declined to suppress the blood evidence regarding Bisard’s reckless homicide charge. They sent the case back to Hawkins for further proceedings.

 

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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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