Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Judge Alexa denies McCowan motion to overturn sentence

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Porter County Superior Court Judge William Alexa on Friday issued an order to deny a motion filed by convicted murder Dustin McCowan alleging that his 60-year sentence in the Department of Correction should be reversed.

McCowan's appellate counsel Mitchell Peters filed the motion on April 18
saying that Alexa had indicated a "personal prejudice and animosity" towards
McCowan during his sentencing on March 28 when the judge mentioned a phone conversation recorded at the Porter County Jail where an unidentified person "arguably made death threats against" the children of the judge and the state prosecuting attorneys in the trial Matt Frost and Cheryl Polarek.
Peters' motion referenced rulings from another case that stated personal
prejudice against a defendant "disqualifies a judge from presiding over that
case."

Along with the motion was an affidavit from McCowan's previous defense
attorneys John Vouga and Nicholas Barnes, which stated they had no knowledge of the phone conversation nor were they ever provided a copy prior to sentencing. If they did, the defense attorneys would have asked the Court to recuse itself because of the likelihood of prejudice, the affidavit states.

Alexa's order on Friday said that the defendant did not have the benefit of
having the transcript from the sentencing available when the motion was
filed.

The transcript shows that Alexa references the conversation stating that the unidentified person tells McCowan "it would be appropriate if the (state attorneys') children were killed so they would know what this is all about."

But the transcript shows Alexa then said "that will not be considered by me in this sentencing because Dustin, to his credit, said, no, that he didn't really think that would be the case."

Whenever a possible threat to the Court or its employees is made, the information is made known to the Court who then determines the severity of the threat. Alexa said that in this case no threat was determined.

If a threat was determined, Alexa said, the Court would have required
recusal.

Alexa's order also said that Vouga was later allowed to listen to the
conversation recording in the Court's chamber and Vouga "noted there was no threat made to the personal safety of anyone."

A copy of the phone conversation will be included in the record for the Indiana Court of Appeals, the order said.

Posted 5/6/2013