Murder trial delay, change of venue sought again

Citing a mountain of data yet to review, the public defender representing Daniel E. Messel has asked that his murder trial date be moved for a third time.

It had been scheduled to start June 1.

Messel, 50, of Bloomington, is charged in the death of Hannah Wilson, whose body was found in April 2015 in a vacant lot at State Road 45 and Plum Creek Road in Brown County.

A previous request to continue a Feb. 24 trial was granted; the original trial date had been July 22, 2015.

In the motion filed April 29, Indianapolis attorney Dorie Maryan said Messel has asked for a continuance because he has not received all of the evidence the state plans to use during the trial, new evidence has recently been discovered, and he is concerned there is not enough time to adequately prepare for the trial.

A potential witness to the crime came forward April 27 with information Maryan is investigating.

“Counsel would attest that this information is particularly important and which may require significant investigation,” she states in the motion.

Prosecutor Ted Adams objected, citing the age of the case, that all witnesses have been disclosed to the defense, and subpoenas have been sent to witnesses who have made preparations to attend the trial.

He also wants closure for the family as soon as possible, he said.

“Hannah Wilson left behind a loving mother, father and sister along with a myriad of extended family and friends,” Adams wrote. “The emotion and psychological impact a potential continuance will have (and already has had) cannot be understated.

“Closure, in this matter, is needed by the victim’s family.”

Maryan said three to four depositions still need to be reviewed. One, about a bloodstain analysis, may require additional testimony from an expert, but she hasn’t been able to determine that yet, she said.

She also said that cellphone ping data was provided to the defense early on, but the 250-plus-page spreadsheets are “largely unintelligible to counsel as she is not an expert on cellphone ping analysis.”

When the prosecution told her they would provide cellphone ping information to the defense, she assumed that meant an analysis of the data, her motion said.

She said the prosecution plans to have a cellphone expert testify, but she has not received any other information about the expert other than the person’s name.

At a May 4 hearing, Maryan also discussed moving the case out of Brown County.

She requested that last June, but Judge Judith Stewart decided to keep it here, reserving a final ruling until the jury selection process began. If jurors in Brown County are deemed impartial and not hostile toward Messel, she had said his murder case would be tried here.

Maryan said last week that the “prejudicial pretrial publicity” has continued.

She cited news stories out of Bloomington about an inmate who claimed to have knowledge that linked Messel to the disappearance of IU student Lauren Spierer and the murder of IU student Jill Behrman.

The inmate also claimed to know all three students, including Wilson. A protective order was filed and distributed April 13 against the inmate on behalf of Messel.

In a March 15 letter, Messel called the claims “ridiculous.”

“The type of publicity that has come on this one gives me great concern,” Stewart said.

Stewart first must rule on whether she will move the trial date before deciding when test jurors can be brought in to determine whether or not there is bias against Messel in the local juror pool.

Both parties will meet Wednesday, May 11 to discuss what the next steps should be.