DELPHI, Ind. — Delphi murder suspect Richard Allen was chained and shackled, clad in a Kevlar vest over a yellow prison jumpsuit, as two corrections officers led him into a packed Carroll County courtroom to listen to arguments about the public release of the evidence that led to his arrest for alleged killing Abby Williams and Libby German near the Monon High Bridge along Deer Creek more than five years ago.
Allen made contact with two women, who deputies said were relatives, seated in the second row of the gallery.
The defendant, his attorneys, Prosecutor Nicholas McLeland and dozens of family members and media were gathered to hear arguments regarding the sealed probable cause affidavit investigators depended on to arrest Allen for the murders of the two teenagers who were walking along a popular rural trail on a day off from school in the winter of 2017.
McLeland told Special Judge Fran Gull that release of the probable cause affidavit that led to Allen’s arrest would lead to media intimidation of witnesses and jeopardize the ongoing investigation because, “Richard Allen is not the only person involved.”
Defense Attorney Bradley Rozzi argued that the PC he’s read offers no proof that his client killed the girls or investigators had their eyes on any additional suspects and that no one has indicated that the glare of the media spotlight has threatened their lives since the discovery of the teenagers’ bodies on the property of Ron Logan, who owned farmland below the bridge.
Rozzi also said that since the early days of the investigation, Indiana State Police have held several news briefings encouraging the public to call the Delphi tip line with leads, and now that an arrest has been made, the prosecution is seeking to shield essential and knowable details from the community.
“We are not impressed,” said Co-Defense Counsel Andrew Baldwin after Prosecutor McLeland offered up a redacted probable cause with witness names blacked out for the judge’s consideration. “Transparency is important in government, and it may be weird for defense lawyers, I suppose, to be arguing that we want things unsealed, but that’s how confident we are in our client, that’s how confident we are at the evidence contained, at least what’s written in the probable cause affidavit, is nothing for us to worry about.”
Public Access Attorney Meg Christensen filed a brief on behalf of several Indiana media outlets arguing that the PC should be revealed in the interest of full disclosure, despite prosecution claims that release could jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
”The investigation is not ongoing with respect to Richard Allen, that’s one key point,” she said. “The public has contributed to that investigation, at least the public thinks it has, and he’s now been charged, and the public has the right to know what those charges are and the basis for those charges.”
Christensen said media coverage also assures that Allen’s constitutional right to face his accusers and know the evidence against him will be protected.
”I take umbrage at the idea that the media is only after sound bites,” she said. “The media is the surrogate to the public in its effort to insure the legitimacy of criminal trials. So if the media is just talking to witnesses and trying to figure out what’s going on, the media is just doing its job.
“This country has a really sordid history of conducting criminal trials behind closed doors with doubtful information, and Richard Allen deserves an open trial. Whether the allegations against him are true or not remains to be seen, but the public needs to understand those allegations. There’s been a public outcry to conclude the investigation and charge someone, and the public needs to understand that the charges were appropriate and not simply a hasty rush to an end.”
McLeland came to court prepared with a redacted version of the PC, presumably with names of juvenile witnesses omitted, and provided that to the judge to compare against the full affidavit that was presented at Allen’s non-public initial hearing October 28.
Judge Gull said she would take the redacted PC under advisement, along with the original motion that argued in favor of sealing the document plus letters from investigators and a relative of one of the victims and an online petition signed by more than 40,000 people calling for the charges to remain secret, and soon issue her ruling.
After the hearing, McLeland filed a motion seeking a gag order on virtually anyone connected to the case, citing inaccurate media reporting and, “media coverage in the news is likely to produce prejudice in the community making it impossible to have a fair and impartial jury to ensure all parties have a fair trial.”
For more than five years, family members, friends, townspeople and investigators have spoken freely with the media about this case.
Even though Judge Gull has set a February 17, 2023, hearing to consider Allen’s bail request, his attorneys argue that the secrecy of the state’s case makes it impossible for them to mount a defense of their client.
“You cannot conduct a suppressing issue in public without talking about the facts, tiptoeing around the facts is going to be impossible,” said Baldwin. “That’s really another terrific reason why these documents need to be unsealed.”