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High-profile federal trials slated for early 2009

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The first half of the year is shaping up to be a time of high-profile trials for Indiana's federal courts.

The U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana's first-ever federal death-penalty trial is slated for March. In May, a major energy company is expected to go through its second liability trial on clean-air violations while a former mayor is set to be tried on civil racketeering charges.

A capital trial is set to begin March 30 before Judge Richard Young in Evansville in the case of U.S.A. v. Jarvis Brown, No. 3:06-cr-00014. Brown faces execution for being part of a drug-trafficking conspiracy that resulted in four murders and eight people being shot in Indianapolis and Evansville several years ago.

Late last week, U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney in Indianapolis set May 11 to begin the nine-day trial in U.S.A., et al. v. Cinergy Corp., et al., No. 1:99-cv-1693, which would be the second trial within a year. In December, Judge McKinney determined that the original two-week liability trial in May 2008 - the nation's first to go before a jury on the issue of whether slight modifications at coal-fired power plants triggered the need for new pollution control equipment - was tainted because of potential attorney and witness misconduct. The judge ultimately opted not to sanction the lawyers involved, but he upheld his decision to set aside the original jury verdict finding that Cinergy had violated the U.S. Clean Air Act at its Wabash plant in Terre Haute but not at four other plants.

A first remedy trial happened earlier this month, but the discovery and remaining remedy aspects are stayed until after the second trial is complete.

That comes just two weeks before State v. Pastrick, et al., No. 3:04-cv-00506, is set to begin in the Northern District of Indiana. Former East Chicago Mayor Robert Pastrick and top mayoral aides James Fife and Timothy Raykovich face federal racketeering charges in that case. They are the only remaining defendants from an original 26 named in the case accusing high-ranking city officials of illegally using public money to pave sidewalks and other work in order to influence votes during the 1999 Democratic primary election. Senior Judge James Moody in Hammond on Friday set May 26 to begin the trial, which was postponed from January.

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