Delphi double murder trial in disarray due to defense challenge of judge

CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. — Last week, after two hours behind closed doors in her office, Special Judge Fran Gull announced to a packed courtroom in Fort Wayne that the attorneys representing the man accused of killing Abby Williams and Libby German outside of Delphi in 2017 told the court they would be resigning from the case and therefore she would name a new defense team on Oct. 31.

Not so fast, responded defense attorney Bradley Rozzi in paperwork filed with the court Thursday.

Rozzi argued that Richard Allen never signed off on his change of counsel, that Judge Gull conducted, “an ambush of Defense counsel,” and that she accused Rozzi and attorney Andrew Baldwin of, “gross negligence,” in the unintended leak of sensitive crime scene evidence to Delphi social media posters from the defense team, that, “Rozzi and Balwin did nothing to compromise Richard M. Allen’s defense,” and that the judge was prepared to publicly shame the defenders while potentially, “tainting the jury pool,” and, “undermining their professional relationship with their client.”

”I’ve never seen a defendant treated this way,” said veteran Indianapolis Defense Attorney John Tompkins who is not affiliated with the Delphi case. ”The attorneys are having to go through some extraordinary circumstances themselves but the criminal justice system is about the people charged with a crime and in America, the criminal justice system stands for treating them fairly and giving them a fair trial and a fair day in court.”

Rozzi’s notice also observed, “the law enforcement community was seated in the jury box directly behind the defense counsel table,” in Judge Gull’s Fort Wayne courtroom.

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, several detectives, and Carroll County Sheriff Tony Liggett, the lead investigator in the case, were seated at a side table typically reserved for trial support personnel.

“Was there a statement by the Court that these concerns of the Court, apparently very serious, would be made public, would be aired nationally would be aired in a public courtroom where apparently there was a comment that law enforcement was present?” asked Tompkins. “I don’t know what that was intended to convey to the defense. It sounds like a veiled threat possibly.”

But in a second filing, Rozzi indicated he wasn’t done in informing the court he would not go quietly.

Allen’s attorney, represented by his own lawyer, David Hennessy of Indianapolis, further called for Judge Gull to disqualify herself from the case.

“The judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” reads Rozzi’s Motion to disqualify, accusing the judge of showing bias against Allen, repeatedly sealing motions filed by the defense to avoid public evaluation and committed, “violations of public access,” while, “placing (Allen’s) attorneys in an ethical dilemma” by creating a public record in open court without the presence of the defendant and that she, “strong-armed Attorneys Rozzi and Baldwin,” into offering oral withdrawals from the case.

”It cannot be a ruling on their request to withdraw because they did not file a written request to withdraw,” said Tompkins. ”It has to be a part of the official docketing system, so saying it in open court would have to be followed up by written memorialization which means file motions with orders granting those motions.”

Hennessy also told FOX59/CBS4 that he contends the judge did not have the authority to direct the Carroll County Clerk to strip the names of Baldwin and Rozzi from the court docket without a filed Notice of Withdrawal or a valid written motion.

“Judge Gull has an overly broad impression of her authority,” Hennessy wrote. “She is mostly just upset about the effectiveness of Attorneys Rozzi and Baldwin in gutting the prosecutions trumped up case against Richard Allen.”

Hennessy said he would be making an additional filing on Friday.

Rozzi is also seeking a transcript of a tape recording made of the debate in chambers last week which would attest to the accuracy of his claims of Judge Gull’s alleged pressure on the defense team to quit.

”If there was a recording by the court reporter, then there will be an official transcript of the in-chambers conference,” said Tompkins. ”Even if the court is correct in their concern, the procedure that was followed seems questionable at best.”

Rozzi’s motions and Notice were filed with the Clerk’s office Wednesday night but not posted to the docket until Thursday at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Two hours later, a motion from Judge Gull, dated a week ago, was finally posted to the public record.

In that motion the judge dismisses the defense team’s request for cameras in the courtroom during the trial, but allows a media request to continue, quashes a subpoena by the state for access to Allen’s mental and medical health records as he awaits trial inside the Westville Correctional Facility, denies Allen’s request to be transferred to a county jail and delays a hearing on the defense attorneys’ Frank’s Motion challenging the validity of the search warrant of Allen’s home a year ago that led investigators to find what they claim is evidence linking the defendant to the murders of the girls.

Most significantly, the judge writes in her motion, “Attorneys Rozzi and Baldwin advise the Court they will be withdrawing their representation of the defendant. Court accepts their representations and orders them withdrawn from the cause.”

Rozzi argues that he and Baldwin, and Hennessy, were never afforded an opportunity to answer the judge’s qualms or the prosecution’s anticipated allegations regarding the mishandling of evidence in an open court hearing.

”The way this was done with not just near zero warning to the defense attorneys, Allen has to make an informed decision with whether he wants to go forward with these attorneys and the Court’s actions completely eliminated his ability to do that,” said Tompkins. ”Those are not hallmarks of respecting Mr. Allen’s rights to a fair trial, to competent prepared counsel and to the counsel of his choice.”

Tompkins added that Rozzi’s motion to have Judge Gull disqualified would be heard by the judge herself.

”It does not have to be in open court. There should be a written ruling addressing all of the reasons in the defense motion as to why she should recuse herself but it doesn’t not have to be in open court,” he said. ”The trial court judge determines whether the motion to excuse her and recuse herself makes her own determination. It is reviewable on appeal.”

Considering the potential of two sets of defense teams, Allen’s original lawyers and new attorneys assigned by Judge Gull, jostling for space in the courtroom next Tuesday morning while Rozzi argues that he and Baldwin are still the accused man’s defenders of choice, Tompkins said he doesn’t expect the next hearing to come off as scheduled.

This whole dispute, said Tompkins, could be headed for the Indiana Court of Appeals or the Indiana Supreme Court which could delay Allen’s trial scheduled for January 8, 2024, indefinitely.

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