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Court says why it removed special prosecutor

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The Indiana Supreme Court released an original action Nov. 13 explaining why it ordered an appointed special prosecutor in Delaware County removed from a case.

The high court issued Oct. 16 its permanent writ of mandamus in which it granted the petition of relief of Adrian D. Kirtz. Kirtz claimed Delaware Circuit Court No. 5 and Judge Thomas A. Cannon Jr. exceeded their jurisdiction and failed when under a duty to act by appointing J.A. Cummins as the special prosecuting attorney in Kirtz's pending criminal case. A special prosecutor was appointed because Kirtz had been a cooperating witness in several cases - pending and closed - in state and federal court, and the Delaware County prosecutor wanted to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

In that writ, the justices said they may issue an order or opinion explaining their reasons for the grant. They did that Friday, detailing why it could be viewed as inappropriate to have Cummins serve as the special prosecutor.

Cummins is the brother-in-law of attorney Michael Alexander, the man against whom Kirtz recently testified in a different criminal case. Alexander was charged with bribery and Kirtz, as a former client of Alexander's, was one of the state's material witnesses against the attorney. Cummins attended some of the trial and was there when Kirtz testified. Alexander was found not guilty. Just a few weeks later, Cummins was appointed to prosecute Kirtz.

The trial court didn't believe the family relationship between Cummins and Alexander would create an appearance of impropriety, but the justices saw otherwise. Cummins had expressed an interest in the Alexander case and attended some of the trial to show his support for his family.

"The issue here is not whether Cummins has a grudge against Kirtz or some other motivation to prosecute him more harshly; nor is the issue whether Cummins can set aside any personal feelings or interests he may have, fairly prosecute Kirtz, and effectively represent the State," the per curiam opinion stated. "The issue is one of appearance: whether Cummins's appointment created the appearance of impropriety."

Cummins' appointment, given the totality of the circumstances, would allow an objective observer reasonably to question whether his relationship with Alexander and Kirtz's role in that case would affect the prosecution of Kirtz.

"Public trust in the integrity of the judicial process requires us to resolve serious doubt in favor of a prosecutor's disqualification," wrote the court.

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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