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Woman loses bid for new trial, appeals

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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

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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