More public funds requested for murder case

A hearing to request more public funds to hire expert witnesses for the man accused of killing an Indiana University student was done behind closed doors Nov. 5.

Brown County Circuit Court Judge Judith Stewart granted Dorie Maryan’s request to proceed “ex parte” over the state’s objection, Prosecutor Ted Adams said. Maryan is defending Daniel Messel.

Ex parte motions are decided by a judge without requiring all parties, like the prosecution, to be present. Everyone was dismissed from the courtroom Nov. 5 except for Stewart and the defense.

Messel, 49, of Bloomington, is charged with killing 22-year-old Hannah Wilson. Her body was discovered April 24 in a vacant lot at State Road 45 and Plum Creek Road in Brown County.

Maryan wanted to proceed ex parte to avoid possibly revealing defense strategies, Adams said.

He doesn’t know the reason the defense wants to hire expert witnesses. He believes it may have something to do with DNA evidence, but since he was not allowed in the hearing, he could not be sure.

Before Stewart granted the ex parte motion Nov. 5, the prosecution expressed concern about expert witnesses pushing additional expenses onto taxpayers, and the fairness of having a hearing without one side present, Adams said.

The amount of money Stewart OK’d to hire expert witnesses is not yet known, but the amount will be made public under the conditions for the hearing.

The judge also said that once those experts are hired, the names of the witnesses will be made public.

She also required that the hearing be recorded and preserved.

This request for public funds was in addition to the $3,000 Maryan was granted in May.

The $3,000 — or more if needed — was for an investigator. Public defender investigators review all of the evidence from the case and interview witnesses on behalf of the defense team.

The county foots the bill.

Local taxpayers will pick up the bill for Messel’s public defense, the cost for the expert witness and investigators and bringing the jury in for a trial.

“I don’t know if it will reach six-digit figures, but it will be a tremendous amount of money for a smaller county,” Adams said.

“We’re a small county, and this is an expensive case. It has to be on our minds when such requests are mind. We’re not a county flushed with county funds.”

At the recent budget hearing for his office, Adams requested $20,000 in case the prosecution needed to store evidence or hire and provide lodging for any possible expert witnesses on their side.

Messel’s trial by jury is scheduled for 8 a.m. Feb. 24 in Brown Circuit Court.

Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.