Monday, March 2, 2009

State v Fairfield - Motion to Dismiss Murder Charge

Fairfield's Motion to Dismiss Denied

Today the court heard arguments in the State of Indiana v Fairfield relating to the prosecution's request for discovery and the defense's Motion to Dismiss. Elizabeth Fairfield was charged with murder over a year after her daughter, Brittany, died of an accidental overdose of prescription pain killers.

Motion for Discovery

Prosecutor Todd Meyer had made a motion for production of all records held by Elizabeth Fairfield's physician relating to their discussions about her prescription for Tramidol. Presenting the case for the defense was Jake Bradley who argued that the request should be denied because it was overly broad, was duplicious of a previous request to Wal-Mart, which was granted, and, that Meyer was seeking to completely "obliterate the doctor-client privilege."

Meyer countered that the request was not duplicitive of that which sought the prescription records from Wal-Mart but was carefully tailored to seek records of only the notes of the doctor citing the reason why Fairfield wanted the prescription refilled. He further stated that it was from the time immediately preceding and the date the prescription was called in, four days after Brittany died.

Bradley reiterated his objection that the request was overly broad and violated the doctor-client privilege.

McClure read from Meyer's written motion noting that it "does not give a time limit" and asks for "any and all records" from the doctor concerning that client, Fairfield. Meyer conceded that he must have misspoke and then stated that it is his intention to see all notes taken by the doctor about what was discussed with his client while she was a patient. This is what is commonly referred to as a 'phishing expedition' where one does not know what it is they will find but hope to find something useful.

Motion to Dismiss

The defense's Motion to Dismiss was presented by lead counsel Tom Farlow who again noted that not one of the prosecution witnesses has publicly testified that he or she knew of any evidence that Elizabeth Fairfield knowingly or intentionally caused the death of her child. This included police investigators assigned to the case.

Farlow's argument in favor of dismissing the case was that Fairfield's right against self-incrimination was violated. Fairfield was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury who ultimately indicted her. She invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent but, at the request of Meyer, was ordered by the judge to testify. Farlow cited caselaw relating to the burden of the prosecutor to show that the indictment was obtained through evidence independent of the defendant who had invoked the right to remain silent.

Meyer countered that the defense had not presented any evidence to show that the indictment was obtained by using Fairfield's testimony. He said the defense asking his witnesses whether they had knowledge of Fairfield's guilt was inadmissible. That their personal feelings are irrelevant and cases such as this depend upon and rely upon circumstantial evidence that wouldn't be know by witnesses. This includes the police and prosecution investigators.

However, as Farlow noted, once we raise the issue of the Fifth Amendment claim, the law is that the State must present the balance of the testimony to show that the State presented sufficient evidence and that Fairfield's testimony was not considered by the grand jury to indict her. Procedurally what should have occurred was the burden of proof shifts to the State which must then present evidence which was used to indict. That it did not.

At the Let to Bail hearing in February the defense presented witnesses where every single one testified that they knew of no evidence that Elizabeth Fairfield knowingly or intentionally caused the death of her child. Farlow argued that since we don't know which ones testified at the grand jury we can only assume it was Fairfield's testimony that led to her indictment.

Meyer fought back stating that the defense had not presented evidence of what was heard by the grand jury. He also contended that the State was not held to the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt at the Let to Bail hearing and thus that witnesses testimony is not applicable to indictment.

Bradley interjected with his contention that the indictment was fatally flawed because it used testimony obtained in violation of Fairfield's right to remain silent. Farlow stated that Todd presented no evidence to show what testimony was used to indict Fairfield and is attempting to shift the burden to the defendant.

Meyer stated that he was not going to waste the court's time bringing in witnesses to try to prove the defendant's guilt. Meyer contends that proof of guilt is an unnecessary inconvenience that does not need to be considered in convicting a defendant.

The parties have until March 9 at 4:00pm to submit their proposed Findings. McClure will then rule that Meyer met his burden of providing evidence today sufficient to show that Fairfield was not indicted using her own testimony and there is no basis to dismiss the case.

The trial is currently set for May 4, 2009.

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