Saturday, May 26, 2012

Curry Asked Ballard To Fire Straub And Corcella Over Handling Of Bisard Blood Evidence

The Star's Carrie Ritchie has an interesting story today about a discovery Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry learned of concerning IMPD's handling of the blood evidence in the David Bisard case early last month based on a tip that so angered him that he wrote a letter to Mayor Greg Ballard demanding the firing of Public Safety Director Frank Straub and the department's chief of professional standards, Ellen Corcella. Here's what Curry learned happened after he had already told IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski, who has since been fired, that his office discovered the blood evidence had been moved from a refrigerator in the property control room to another location where it was not refrigerated that angered him so much:
Records obtained by The Indianapolis Star show that on April 16, hours after Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry told former Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Paul Ciesielski that one of two vials of Bisard's blood had been improperly moved despite a judge's order that it be preserved, police officers took the blood samples out of their sealed envelopes to examine and photograph them.
Two other times that week -- April 18 and 19 -- officers returned to the property room to handle the blood.

In a scathing letter hand-delivered to Mayor Greg Ballard's office the next day, Curry called for the immediate removal of Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Ellen Corcella, deputy chief of professional standards, who directed officers to examine the blood samples and accompanied them to the property area. Curry said that as a former deputy prosecutor under Carl Brizzi, Corcella "should know better."

"After all of the controversy regarding the single most critical piece of evidence in what is probably the most high-profile case in Marion County, this was done with no notice to our office either before or after handling our evidence," Curry wrote in the letter, which The Star obtained through a public records request. "We will have no choice but to produce this information to counsel for Bisard, which will without doubt lead to additional arguments from the defense regarding chain of custody of the evidence and alleged tampering."
This happened just months after the Department of Public Safety announced that Corcella, a former New York federal prosecutor, had joined the department to head its professional standards department. In a January press release announcing Corcella's appointment, Straub said of her:

"Ms. Corcella brings extensive legal and prosecutorial experience to the Department of Public Safety," said Director Frank Straub. "I believe, under her leadership, DPS Professional Standard's programs, policies, procedures and practices will be strengthened, our service to the community enhanced, and our continuing efforts to re-engineer the department significantly enhanced."
Straub recently announced that he would be stepping down from his position in August after it became apparent the City-County Council would not confirm his reappointment as Public Safety Director. Corcella has not been fired. Ballard's chief of staff, Ryan Vaughn, claims the police meant no harm when they removed the blood evidence from a sealed envelope. Vaughn told Ritchie that they were simply trying to document where the evidence was located after discovering that it had been moved. Curry, however, isn't buying that explanation. Bisard's attorney has already sought to block the testing of a second vial of Bisard's blood because it was unrefrigerated for a period of five months after it was moved and chain of custody concerns. Prosecutors have been unable to use evidence showing Bisard's blood alcohol level at the time of a fatal accident after his police cruiser struck of a group of motorcyclists at an intersection to support drunk driving charges against him; however, the Judge Grant Hawkins has said prosecutors could use the evidence to support criminal recklessness and reckless homicide charges against Bisard.

1 comment:

Marycatherine Barton said...

I am so glad to learn that Curry was seething with anger about the police mishandling of the blood evidence, and properly asked for the resignation of both Straub and Corcella.