Chesterton Tribune



Hung jury in trial of Westville prison officer charged with attempted trafficking

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The jury in the trial of a correctional officer charged with attempted trafficking at the Westville Correctional Facility was unable to reach a verdict earlier this month in LaPorte Superior Court.

The jury deliberated six hours before reporting itself “at a standstill” on June 12, following the three-day trial of Christine Evans, 29, of Valparaiso, Evans’ attorney, Larry Rogers, told the Chesterton Tribune.

Evans was arrested in January 2013 after reporting to work at the Westville prison and charged with trafficking. The Indiana Department of Correction said at the time that Evans “was believed to have been in possession of a green leafy substance in a plastic bag,” as the Tribune reported on Jan. 11, 2013.

What that curious turn of phrase actually meant, Rogers explained, is that a package containing 85 grams of K2--a synthetic marijuana product--was found in a recycle bin in the waiting room of the prison’s Internal Affairs Office, where Evans had eaten a bag of pretzels, then tossed the bag into the bin, while waiting to be interviewed by a staffer on an entirely unrelated matter.

Discovered in the bin, along with the pretzel bag, was the package of K2, by a secretary, Rogers said.

Evans adamantly and steadfastly maintained her innocence, before and during the trial, Rogers said, while the state had heavy going proving her guilt.

Begin with a videotape surveillance tape which purportedly showed Evans tossing something into the recycle bin, “in a single motion.” That tape was never produced at trial, however, because it was inadvertently recorded over, Rogers said.

Photographs were also reportedly taken of the package of K2 in the bin. But those photos disappeared before the trial, at least they couldn’t be found, Rogers said.

Nor did the correctional police officer who investigated the case ever attempt to link the package specifically to Evans through fingerprints or DNA, Rogers added. In fact, Evans recalls the officer saying something along the lines of “We could do fingerprints and CSI stuff but we got you,” Rogers said.

More: although K2 has a very strong and distinctive odor, no one remembers smelling it on or near Evans prior to its being found in the bin, Rogers said. In any case, Evans “had been very thoroughly shaken down”--“as all employees are” when reporting to work--well before she entered the Internal Affairs Office, Rogers added.

Rogers did note that inmates tasked with cleaning duty have access to the Internal Affairs Office.

Rogers was unable to say whether the LaPorte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office intends to re-try the case. He did say that he was led to understand, by someone in that office, that the jury split 10-2 in favor of acquitting Evans.




Posted 6/25/2014