SBPD officer's widow puts faith in judicial system

A judge now has 90 days to decide if a new trial will be ordered in the 1997 fatal shooting of South Bend police Cpl. Paul Deguch.

A two day hearing on a request for a new trial wrapped up today.

Attorneys argued over a variety of potential problems with the first trial of Gregory Dickens, Jr., who is now serving a life sentence for murder.

The hearing made it clear that if Dickens were to be retried, some things would be handled much differently.

For instance, today Dickens wore handcuffs and leg irons in the courthouse, where people are commonly restrained in some way, shape, or form.

But no longer, by order of the Indiana Supreme Court, are defendants forced to wear ‘stun belts.’ The kind of stun belt that Dickens was forced to wear during his first trial in 1998.

Testimony today left no doubt that the jury in Dickens’ first trial knew about the belt. Attorney Jim Korpal was on the Dickens’ defense team and he testified today that the belt was so obvious when Dickens took the stand to testify, that Korpal himself asked Dickens what he was wearing under his shirt, so it would not be a distraction.

Typically, great care is taken to hide the need to physically control a defendant at trial so as not to prejudice the jury.

The stun belt argument has been used with some success in other criminal appeals.

While the two day hearing provided very little in the way of new information about what happened the night Paul Deguch was shot to death in the line of duty, Deguch’s widow, Annette was there for all of the testimony. “I put my faith in the justice system before and they haven’t let me down, so I’m hoping for the same outcome that they’re not going to let me down this time,” Annette Deguch said.

The hearing did make it clear that a retrial would not include a now discredited and discontinued form of FBI bullet testing that was used in Dickens’ first trial.

Korpal today called the use of the bullet test results “huge” while another member of the Dickens defense team, Phil Skodinski said the test results “burst our bubble,” and “caused our case to crash.”

The questionable test results linked bullets left at the crime scene to those found in a box in Gregory Dickens’ bedroom.

The prosecutor countered that the Dickens’ defense team never sought a trial continuance in order to find someone to refute the bullet test results, and never asked the judge to refuse to admit the evidence.

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