7-year-old LaPorte manslaughter case marked by misconduct going to trial

A northern Indiana man whose manslaughter case was dismissed due to police and prosecutorial misconduct then reinstated by the state’s high court is scheduled to stand trial beginning next week, nearly seven years after his wife was found shot to death in their home.

John B. Larkin of Long Beach has claimed his wife’s death was an accident, and he also has submitted notice to the LaPorte Superior Court that he intends to pursue a self-defense claim. Larkin is charged with Class A felony manslaughter, accused of fatally shooting his wife, Stacey Renee Larkin, in December 2012.

But Larkin’s manslaughter case is proceeding against a history of police and prosecutorial misconduct that led the trial court to dismiss the charges against him, which a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in June 2017. That same year, then-LaPorte deputy prosecutor Robert Neary was suspended from the practice of law for four years for, among other things, eavesdropping on criminal defendants’ conversations with their attorneys, including Larkin. In issuing the stern suspension, justices found that “the egregious nature of (Neary’s) conduct cannot be overstated.”

Nevertheless, justices subsequently reinstated the manslaughter charge against Larkin last June, finding dismissal to be “an extreme remedy” for police and prosecutorial misconduct.

Larkin had been charged after Long Beach Police Department officers found his wife dead in their home from two gunshot wounds. Larkin agreed to speak with police about the shooting only on the condition that he be charged with voluntary manslaughter, not murder, according to the record. The interview was videotaped, and during a break, the recording equipment captured Larkin telling his attorneys a struggle ensued between him and his wife after she attempted to retrieve a gun from a safe.

As the case has proceeded toward trial, Special Judge Roger Bradford has responded to additional allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, the Michigan City News-Dispatch reported. Bradford refused a renewed motion to dismiss in July, after Larkin’s defense team learned the gun involved in the shooting had been recalled for firing defects — information the state learned in 2016 but did not disclose to Larkin’s attorneys, who learned of the recall from their own gun expert, the paper reported.

“The failure to disclose this evidence and having the defense find out on its own that these defects exist certainly is an addition to the egregious pattern of prosecutorial misconduct that flows throughout this case,” Bradford wrote in July, according to the News-Dispatch. “However … The trial in this case is not scheduled until September of 2019, and therefore the defense will have adequate time to explore this evidence.”

Jury selection in the case, State of Indiana v. John B. Larkin, 46D01-1212-FA-000610, is scheduled to begin Monday. Larkin is represented by defense attorneys Stacy Uliana and Dorothy Maryan of Bargersville.

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