DELPHI, Ind. — The Carroll County Council has pegged the cost at the anticipated double murder trial of accused killer Richard Allen of Delphi at $2.1 million.
Councilors are setting aside $1,535,000 for personnel services, $530,000 for “other services” and $35,000 for supplies.
Last November, Carroll County Prosecutor Nicholas McLeland told the council he might need to hire another prosecutor to work by his side in preparation of the case against Allen, who is accused of killing teenage friends Abby Williams and Libby German near the Monon High Bridge along the banks of Deer Creek on February 13, 2017.
Attorneys for both sides have told Special Judge Fran Gull of Allen County that they think a fair and impartial jury can be selected from either Allen County or St. Joseph County and transported approximately 90 miles to Delphi to hear the case, while jurors would be sequestered in a nearby city for as long as it takes to hear the evidence and reach a verdict.
”It’s cheaper to get a jury from the northern counties, and they’re heavily populated, and I think it’s far enough away from Carroll County, Indiana, that most of the citizens there really don’t pay attention to what’s happened in Delphi,” said Lafayette defense attorney Earl McCoy, who is not connected to the case. ”With regard to looking at Allen County, this is where this judge is from. She can use her own courtroom, her own staff, and that’s going to streamline the process and save some expense, I’m sure. The downside to Allen County is because this judge is from Fort Wayne, some of the news outlets from Allen County have been playing close attention to this case and following it to Carroll County for purposes of attending hearings.
“I’m not aware if news agencies from South Bend have been sending individuals there, but there’s less media coverage in South Bend than there is in Fort Wayne, and it may be easier to obtain an impartial jury from South Bend than it is from Fort Wayne.”
Either way, attorneys will be picking jurors from urban centers to travel to a small rural Indiana county to dispense justice, said former Marion County Prosecutor Denise Robinson, who has tried Indianapolis homicide cases in both South Bend and Fort Wayne under change-of-venue orders.
”Having a case that originates in a rural setting and bringing in urban jurors can be a problem when it comes to those jurors assessing the resources available to the small community,” she said. “Particularly coming from my background, the prosecutor may need to work a little harder to let the jurors know what resources that county has available.”
Delphi is a community of 3,000 people, while the population of Carroll County in total numbers just over 20,000.
Last October before Allen’s arrest, Carroll County’s anticipated 2023 municipal budget was set at $18,400,000.
A trial of the complexity of the Delphi murders, encompassing dozens of witnesses and nearly six years of investigation, would be a daunting task for any size community.
”In the case where you’re bringing jurors from outside in the county, in this case Carroll County’s gonna bear the cost of housing those jurors, feeding those jurors, security for the jurors, security for the courthouse, managing the courthouse,” said Robinson. “Now, if it were moved to another county, whether that’s Allen County or St. Joe, then the county would bear other costs, paying the county for those things.
”If you keep the prosecutors at home, then the prosecutor’s office has lower costs. But in my case, when we moved to South Bend or Fort Wayne for two months, that was a much higher cost to our office. But, it’s all county funds, it’s just a different pocket.”
Keeping the jury in an information cocoon will be key to assuring a fair trial, said McCoy.
”Absolutely, the jury in this case will have to be sequestered,” he said. ”The case is so large you’re not gonna be able to swipe through on social media and not see something pop up on your screen, and you can’t drive home an hour and a half and not hear something on the radio. So, this jury will be sequestered.
“The length of the trial is a major imposition to finding jurors that would be willing to do it. Obviously, young mothers or mothers with children at home are not gonna be well suited to sit on this jury. In fact, I think if you asked most jurors if they would be willing to be sequestered that long, you’re gonna have a hard time finding any jurors willing to do that.”
Even though Judge Gull speculated during a recent court hearing that while the original March 20 trial date is unlikely, she indicated that an autumn start date is possible.
“I do not see any way that this trial is really gonna happen in the fall,” said McCoy. “I expect the court to schedule the next jury trial date in the fall because you want to hold the attorneys’ feet to the fire to a certain extent and have pre-trial conferences ahead of time so you can figure out where are we, how close are we, and if we’re moving it again, how much time do we need to move it.”
Judge Gull may rule on the favored county of jury selection, and a new trial date during the next pre-trial hearing February 17, which comes six years and four days after Libby and Abby were killed.