ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. — When Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull took the bench a half-hour later than anticipated Thursday afternoon to announce that Delphi defendant Richard Allen’s defense team was stepping down, there was an audible gasp mostly from social media watchers in the courtroom.
From my location in the gallery seated behind Allen’s wife and another woman, I had watched the comings and goings of the attorneys and family the previous half-hour and suspected the judge was going to show the lawyers the door.
Judge Gull was displeased and forced to call today’s hearing after she learned a week ago that a leak of sensitive crime scene evidence from one of Allen’s attorneys made its way to the Delphi social media posters.
Defense attorney Andrew Baldwin then engaged his own legal counsel, veteran Indianapolis barrister David Hennessy, to plead his case before the judge.
Hennessy never got the chance even though he filed a motion just four hours before the scheduled hearing describing his client as, “snookered and abused,” by a former employee who had unauthorized access to the evidence that he then admittedly passed on to a Facebook Delphi follower.
Hennessy further argued that to remove Baldwin from the case after he and Allen had built up a rapport would be an “extreme remedy for any alleged or perceived violation of the Court’s order,” to secure access to the evidence shared under discovery.
Hennessy’s motion also confirmed that one of the participants in the social media leak of evidence took his own life last week.
FOX59/CBS4 has learned that death occurred after the man was questioned by investigators about his role in the leak.
Carroll County Prosecutor Nicholas McLeland and the defense attorneys entered Judge Gull’s chambers for a pow-wow at 12:30 p.m. as Hennessy sat on a bench in the hallway, waiting to be summoned.
As the 2 p.m. starting time passed, it was obvious that talks were continuing and the results would be potentially significant.
Allen’s wife Kathy was seated in the courtroom as she has been at all his hearings and was escorted into a back hallway to speak with her husband.
Minutes later she emerged, choking back tears, and then defense attorney Bradley Rozzi motioned Kathy and a friend to exit the courtroom for a private conversation from which they did not return.
Baldwin and Rozzi were spotted transitioning in the hallway from the judge’s chambers to Allen’s holding area and Hennessy, who was prepared to defend his client Baldwin in the courtroom debate over the leak, also disappeared into the back hallway.
Minutes later, a sheriff’s deputy signaled that Judge Gull was about to enter the courtroom, and as she settled in behind the bench, the judge announced that Baldwin was voluntarily withdrawing from the case, Rozzi would submit his withdrawal in the days to come, and all evidence held by the defense team would be returned to the prosecution and there would be a hearing on Oct. 31st in Delphi to announce the new lawyers who would represent Allen and a new date for the start of the trial next year.
Today’s hearing marked the third time in the last year that Judge Gull has addressed defense leaks of evidence or public pronouncements that resulted in a gag order.
All attorneys and investigators remain under that gag order and are unable to comment on or explain this latest turn.
Left unresolved was the previous defense team’s challenge to the validity of the search warrant that was used to discover a gun in Allen’s house that investigators say is linked to the crime scene.
Allen was returned to the Westville Correctional Facility where he is being held in pre-trial detention though technically as an innocent man.
The defense team was fighting that detention, too, in favor of pre-trial incarceration closer to Allen’s home community of Delphi.
While today’s hearing was captured live by Court TV, Judge Gull is yet to decide whether she will allow cameras in the trial courtroom.