An Indianapolis man facing the death penalty is requesting public funds to hire a brain injury consultant in an apparent move to raise questions about whether he acted “knowingly or intentionally.”
Jason Brown has been charged with murder in the shooting death of Southport Police Officer Lt. Aaron Allan after a traffic accident in July 2017. Brown, who is being held in New Castle Correctional Facility, is presenting the court with the extremely rare situation of being indigent and represented not by the public defender but by a private criminal defense attorney doing the work pro bono.
His attorney, Denise Turner, has asked the court for an ex parte hearing to consider his motion for public funding of a brain injury consultant.
The defense asserted to effectively explain the need for the expert, the hearing should be closed because Brown will have to reveal to the court the theory of the defense, attorney-client confidences, work product and other information. Having to make the argument in open court would restrict his ability to provide a detailed account of the need for this kind of assistance.
In the motion, the defense offers some specifics on Brown’s medical condition and the possible ramifications.
“The medical records provided to the State and discovered to the defense indicate that Mr. Brown suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the car accident that occurred immediately preceding the shooting,” the motion states. “Additionally, a preliminary mitigation investigation has revealed that Mr. Brown may have suffered from multiple head injuries over the course of his lifetime.
“A brain injury consultant specializing in traumatic brain injury is necessary to Mr. Brown’s defense in determining whether those injuries could have had an effect on Mr. Brown’s ability to form the requisite mental intent as alleged in the charging information.”
The defense argues that denying Brown privacy will violate his constitutional rights. While a wealthy defendant would not have to present his work product, requiring Brown to do so because he is relying on public funds would deprive him of his equal-protection rights.
Marion Superior Judge Shelia Carlisle has given the state until Oct. 1 to file a response.
In her order, Carlisle held Brown demonstrated the need for the assistance of a mitigation specialist and fact investigator and she described the help to be provided by the experts as “reasonable and necessary expenses at this time.” Even so, she maintained that while Brown is entitled to public funds for his defense, he is not entitled to unlimited funding.
“The trial court has a duty to ensure that any expenses spent with public funds are necessary to preparation of the defense, and not wasteful or extravagant,” Carlisle wrote. “Therefore, this Court will maintain reasonable oversight over the amount and extent of expenses incurred under this Order.”
Carlisle placed certain limitations on the money and noted failure to follow the guidelines could result in a denial of funds. The guidelines include hiring only one mitigation specialist and one investigator; not allowing the total expenses for both experts to exceed $4,000 per month; getting prior approval for all travel expenses; and requiring each expert to submit an itemized accounting of every expenditure each month.