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Federal judge orders new trial in felony gun possession case

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Finding the interests of justice require a new trial for a man convicted of a federal gun crime in which the government withheld potentially exculpatory evidence, Judge William T. Lawrence granted his request Wednesday in the Southern District of Indiana Terre Haute division.

Donald Bickel of Jasonville was convicted in November after authorities obtained a search warrant for his home but then watched and waited as someone left and drove to the woods in Bickel’s truck. Officers didn’t confirm Bickel’s identity as they watched, though, and waited another 12 hours before executing the warrant.

Lawrence vacated Bickel’s conviction of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of ammunition by a felon and granted his motion for a new trial. He ruled that the government failed to disclose the period of surveillance and it suppressed Norman Arthur Pilant’s statement that he was the owners of guns and ammunition for which Bickel was charged. Pilant also claimed he was driving Bickel’s truck as police watched.

“The Court now finds that the cumulative effect of the Government’s failure to disclose the period of police surveillance prior to Bickel’s arrest and the recorded statement made by Norman Arthur Pilant at the scene of Bickel’s arrest prior to trial, jeopardized the substantial rights of the Defendant,” Lawrence wrote.

Chief Federal Defender Monica Foster of Indiana Federal Community Defenders Inc. praised federal defender Joseph Cleary for getting the conviction vacated.

“This case sends a clear message that prosecutorial misconduct will not be tolerated by the federal courts,” Foster said in a statement. “We have been concerned about the United States Attorney’s discovery policies in the recent past and this case demonstrates those concerns have merit. Our justice system is built on the premise that the Government plays fair and we continue our commitment to making sure they do.”
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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