Judges shooting defendant moves to unseal evidence, including surveillance video

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with details from a court filing from the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office objecting to the release of grand jury exhibits.

The man accused of shooting two Indiana judges in a May 1 morning melee in a downtown Indianapolis White Castle parking lot is asking a judge to unseal evidence — including surveillance video of the incident — that his attorneys say is critical to his claim that he acted in self-defense. The state counters that the request is meritless.

Brandon Kaiser’s defense team on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss a protective order that placed under seal grand jury evidence including witness testimony and security video that shows the events as they unfolded. The video has never been publicly released, though some still images have been entered as exhibits by Kaiser’s defense attorneys who signed Tuesday’s motion, Mario Massillamany and Erica Guernsey of Fishers.

Kaiser faces multiple felony counts related to the shooting of Clark Circuit judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs, but he intends to pursue a self-defense claim.

Adams and Jacobs, as well as Crawford Circuit Judge Sabrina Bell, were each briefly suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court as a result of their involvement in the parking lot brawl. The court found that 10 hours before a judicial conference the three had traveled to Indianapolis to attend, they “joined in a profane verbal altercation that quickly turned into physical violence and ended in gunfire, and in doing so, gravely undermined public trust in the dignity and decency of Indiana’s judiciary.”

Adams and Jacobs respectively sustained serious and critical injuries in the shooting and spent multiple days hospitalized before they were released. Kaiser was later charged, along with his nephew, Alfredo Vasquez, who pleaded guilty to a battery count and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Adams was subsequently charged with multiple felonies, but he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge and received no jail time or probation.

He, Jacobs and Bell have since retaken the bench.

Meanwhile, video of the incident has remained under seal as a result of a protective order requested by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. Late Tuesday, the office filed an objection to Kaiser’s motion to dismiss. The state argues counsel for Kaiser have been furnished discovery as provided under law and dismissed the argument that the protective order “interferes with and precludes defense counsel’s ability to speak to others about the events that happened that night and early morning.”

“The defense filing has no merit,” the state objection says.

The protective order, the motion says, “results in an extreme injustice to the Defendant by limiting the Defendant’s ability to conduct (an) independent investigation into the incident, obtain witnesses in his favor, and prepare his defense.”

Kaiser’s defense counsel argue it’s essential to their client that they “be allowed to conduct their own independent investigation into the events of the night of April 30, 2019 and the early morning of May 1,” which includes gathering evidence and potential witnesses.

But the state counters that the defense doesn’t need evidence in the case unsealed in order to do that.

“The protective order, issued in accordance with the law, does NOT preclude counsel from speaking to anyone about the events, nor does it preclude any investigation by defense counsel which is the basis for this request for the dismissal of the order,” the state argues. “Further, the protective order specifically allows … that the materials may be used in preparation of a defense in this matter.”

If the protective order is lifted by Marion Superior Judge Shatrese Flowers, it would open the door to public release of the video and other evidence that was presented to grand jurors. All the charges stemming from the May 1 brawl resulted from grand jury indictments.

Kaiser’s trial date is currently set for June 15.

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