Woman loses bid for new trial, appeals

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

A Greensburg woman – who said she was wrongfully convicted 14 years ago of an arson that killed her son – has lost her latest bid for a new trial and is now taking her case to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

After months of review following a hearing in October, Decatur Circuit Judge John Westhafer issued a 47-page ruling earlier this summer that denied Kristine Bunch’s request for post-conviction relief. She was convicted in 1996 of arson and murder for setting the trailer-home fire the year before that resulted in the death of her 3-year-old son. She was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

In his June 8 decision, Judge Westhafer wrote that he didn’t feel the defense produced sufficient evidence to warrant a retrial. He noted that Bunch’s lawyers had not introduced or presented any new factual evidence or physical evidence discovered since the original 1996 trial, but rather only opinion evidence. One of his main reasons for denial was that the lawyers presented four experts about how a new trial would turn out, but those individuals cited the same “undetermined” cause as the defense’s original trial expert.

“While (Bunch) had new resources available to her at the post-conviction hearing, new experts do not create new evidence,” the judge wrote. “The issues raised and the conclusions reached – while packaged differently ­– remain basically the same as they were at trial in 1996.”

Judge Westhafer also discussed the investigation quality, existence of kerosene in the floor samples with ‘innocent’ explanations, and a potential electrical cause were all presented at the original trial and in subsequent appeals. He also referred to Bunch’s own trial comments that appear contradictory and create “a significant inference of guilt.”

Bunch’s legal team – Indianapolis attorney Hilary Bowe Ricks and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law – filed an appeal July 8 and briefs are being filed in the coming months. That appeal is Kristine Bunch v. State of Indiana, No. 16A05-1007-PC-00439.

Rehearing to "Aiming for exoneration" IL Sept. 2-15, 2009


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.