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Indiana Supreme Court mulls decision after hearing arguments in Delphi case

Full videos of Thursday’s hearing are included at the end of the story.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court ordered that Richard Allen’s original defense team be reinstated on the high-profile murder case after Judge Fran Gull previously removed the pair for being “grossly negligent.”

On Thursday, attorneys representing Allen, Gull and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office pled their case before the Indiana Supreme Court surrounding a myriad of issues that ground the highly publicized case to a halt.

Allen is charged with two counts of murder in the February 2017 deaths of Abby Williams and Libby German on the Monon High Bridge in Delphi. He and his attorneys have been pushing to remove Judge Fran Gull from proceeding over the case after the judge dismissed his original defense team.

Gull has argued her removal of the defense team was warranted due to finding the attorneys “grossly negligent” after an evidence leak attributed to one of the attorneys led to crime scene images appearing online.

Allen, meanwhile, has contended that Gull overstepped her authority by removing his chosen defense team and setting back his trial by nearly a year.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office previously weighed in on the high-profile case by arguing that Allen’s move to bring his complaint before the Indiana Supreme Court was the improper legal avenue and that Allen and his defense team should instead be using the appeal process.

While the Indiana Supreme Court ultimately sided with Allen about the reinstatement of his defense team, the court did not remove Gull from the case. The court also denied Allen’s request to order the double murder trial to commence within 70 days.

Standing before the high court on Thursday, Mark Leeman argued on behalf of Allen with one of his main points being that no matter if the attorneys were found ineffective or not, Allen has a right to choose his own counsel.

Leeman clarified that he did not believe the attorneys were proven to be ineffective or incompetent, and that the leak of evidence did not jeopardize the original defense team’s trial strategy.

The high court mulled this point by stating that if a Defendant had the right to represent themselves, even if a judge did not recommend it, then could not a Defendant equally have a right to waive any concerns with their counsel and keep said counsel if made aware of these concerns?

Part of Leeman’s argument was also that by removing Allen’s original defense team of Bradley Rozzi and Andrew J. Baldwin, the court had jeopardized their strategy of invoking a speedy trial and catching the prosecution “on their backfoot.”

The high court pointed out, however, that Rozzi and Baldwin had two months to file for a speedy trial and never did.

”This is more than just a choice of counsel case. This is an interference of counsel. This is the right to counsel itself because the right to counsel is meaningless if a judge can step in and say, ‘Stop all work,’” Leeman said.

Matt Gutwein, arguing on behalf of Judge Fran Gull, continued to advocate that the trial judge had the authority to remove Allen’s counsel due to ineffectiveness and worries about conflict of interest.

Gutwein also pointed out that Gull was prepared to hold a hearing to judge if the attorneys were negligent or not in their handling of the case but Rozzi and Baldwin chose to withdraw from the case instead of taking the matter before the public in a hearing.

One of the main concerns mulled by the high court and Gutwein was whether allowing Allen to waive his concerns and keep Baldwin and Rozzi onboard as his defense team would just open up the case to be appealed later with Allen turning around and arguing that he went to trial with ineffective counsel.

”We already have a polluted jury pool because of the inordinate pre-trial publicity that this case has garnered and the further disclosure of highly confidential inflammatory material further pollutes that jury pool,” Gutwein said.

Angela Sanchez, representing the Attorney General’s Office, continued to argue her office’s stance that Allen was pursuing the incorrect legal avenue and that the appeal process was the proper course of action for Allen’s concerns.

Sanchez also questioned whether the court truthfully knew what exactly it was Allen wanted since his desires to keep Rozzi and Baldwin were presented to the court “second hand.” She questions Allen’s competence in understanding and making such an impactful decision of waiving away the concern of ineffectiveness and negligence brought forward by Gull about his counsel.

Leeman rebutted this, however, by pointing to a letter sent by Allen to the court where he argued to keep Rozzi and Baldwin as his counsel despite the evidence leak.

“I’m really struggling with why (Allen) can’t make that decision if that’s in his best interest and lets get this case moving again,” said Chief Justice Loretta Rush.

Sanchez pointed out that the Indiana Supreme Court has “no absolute duty” to order anything in hearing these arguments on Thursday.

Leeman stated his client would accept “whatever the court’s ruling is.”

After hearing all the arguments, the high court adjourned to discuss the case and said the court would come to a decision “as soon as possible.”

Several hours later, the court released their decision by ordering the reinstatement of Rozzi and Baldwin but denying Allen’s other requests to remove the judge and order the trial commence within 70 days.

As of now, the trial remains set for October.

To watch the full arguments presented on Thursday morning, see the videos included below.

Mark Leeman presents argument on behalf of Richard Allen:

Matt Gutwein presents argument on behalf of Judge Fran Gull

Angela Sanchez presents argument on behalf of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office

Mark Leeman’s rebuttal

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