While no decision was issued, the public had the opportunity to witness three judges of the Indiana Court of Appeals conduct an appeal hearing Tuesday at the Walden Inn's Emerson Room.
DePauw University students, faculty members and Putnam County residents were invited to hear the oral arguments in the case of Donald E. Ware, the man convicted of murdering a 15-year-old boy who threw eggs at Ware's vehicle.
The incident behind the case occurred July 24, 2005 when a group of teenage boys gathered to throw eggs at passing vehicles on a dark Indianapolis road. As one egged victim was calling the police, another informed her he had a gun and he was going after the boys. Shots were fired, injuring one boy in the leg and hitting another youth in the back.
Officers were approached by a man who said he had been egged and pointed the officers in the direction the boys ran.
During the investigation, officers received an anonymous tip that led to the suspicion of Ware as the suspect. Ware was arrested at his residence after officers issued a search warrant. Ware informed officers in his statement that he was at the scene that night but he did not fire a gun.
Ware was convicted and sentenced for 70 years in prison by a Marion Superior Court jury in December 2005.
Ware is appealing the conviction on the grounds that the affidavit did not provide sufficient probable cause, that the State presented insufficient evidence during the trial and that evidence was improperly admitted. Ware is also asking for the court to reduce his sentence.
Judges L. Mark Bailey, Margret Robb and Terry Crone heard 20 minutes of oral arguments from both representing attorneys. Representing Ware was Ann Sutton from the Marion County Public Defender Agency in Indianapolis, and representing the state was Scott Barnhart, Deputy Attorney General. Both Sutton and Barnhart were provided time for rebuttal after the arguments.
Sutton's argument to the judges was that officers left a witness's statement and photo identification of the man she talked with out of the probable cause affidavit and the search warrant.
Barnhart's argument to the judges was that the investigating officer identified Ware as the man he talked with at the scene, and the search warrant led to the officers to finding egg shells in Ware's driveway and egg residue on truck's inside panel.
Throughout both attorneys' arguments, all three judges asked questions in regard to the case. Judge Robb later said that by asking these questions, the judges have the opportunity to better understand an issue or to help convince their colleagues about an issue.
Following the hearing, the members of the audience were given the opportunity to ask both the judges and the attorneys questions so they could better understand the judicial system that serves the public.
The audience was only able to ask general inquires about the legal system during the question and answer session, not about the case being heard. The judges and attorneys were unable to answer any specific questions about the case.
One audience member asked Sutton and Barnhart if they ever get to give their presentation on the case, especially since the judges asked so many questions of the attorneys. Barnhart said that attorneys realize they are going to be asked questions from the judges. Sutton said that she plans to get through at least one card of her presentation before being asked questions.
Both Barnhart and Sutton agreed that they prefer to be asked questions from the judges because then they are interacting with the judges, and knowing what the judges want to know.
The judges will be making their decision on Ware's appeal in the coming month.