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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Jury returns with verdict of not guilty

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

John Sebeck
Within an hour, the jury in John Sebeck's arson trial had lunch and returned a not guilty verdict Wednesday.

Around 1:30 p.m., the decision was announced in Clay Circuit Court.

Using the court's final 16 instructions as a guide, the jury was unable to find the evidence presented by the state proof enough to find Sebeck "guilty of each element of the crime charged, beyond a reasonable doubt."

Prosecutor Chou-il Lee went on the offense earlier in the day as Indiana State Police Detective Sam Stearley continued his testimony.

Lee wanted to tackle the issues brought up by the defense late Tuesday that there was a lack of evidence collected during the arson investigation.

Photos of tire tracks were provided to Stearley by a certified arson investigator from Teresa Sebeck's insurance company were taken four or five days after the fire took place May 18, 2008. The investigator had requested the tracks be compared to tires on John Sebeck's truck.

Stearley told the court the pictures were taken of tracks in a location near a bridge at Eel River commonly used by the public for recreational purposes that, to his knowledge, was never secured or believed to be part of the crime scene. Since John was working on the house located across the road, investigators expected to find tracks from John's vehicle to be parked anywhere in the area and didn't consider the information to be of value to the case.

However, defense attorney Rowdy Williams wanted to know if anyone followed up on the potential lead or called to verify the date the photos were taken. Stearley said no.

The issue of collecting samples to determine the presence of gasoline was considered moot by investigators. Stearley testified since firefighters with the Cory Township Volunteer Fire Department noticed something suspicious, expert witness and 30-year veteran Indiana State Fire Marshal Fred Daffer and then-Clay County Sheriff's Deputy Jonathan Chadd all detecting the smell of gasoline at the fire scene further testing "would have only confirmed what we already knew."

Daffer's determination there were no splatter or pouring patterns for the gasoline present at the fire scene ruled out the necessity to acquire a search/seizure warrant for John's clothing he was wearing at the time the fire was set.

"Someone ignited the gas can and left. The gas wasn't poured out," Lee told the jury. "Do you think that gas would just jump up onto John's clothing and in his truck? (A search warrant) proves nothing."

Verifying Debra Floyd's phone records as to the times she called to check on Teresa during a heated argument with John (at 1:25 a.m., May 18, 2008) that she witnessed and another call to William Hampton (at 2:06 a.m., May 18, 2008) about whether it was a good idea for them to leave Teresa alone, according to Lee, was done.

"Debra provided her cell phone to Det. Stearley. It showed the call logs, which we all know can't be changed. She testified to that here in court," Lee said. "(Det. Stearley) saw those records with his own eyes."

After the state rested its case and the jury was removed from the courtroom, Williams requested Judge Joseph Trout issue a direct verdict, citing a lack of evidence connecting his client to the arson and no admission of guilty by John Sebeck.

While agreeing the case was based on circumstantial evidence, Trout said the issue was better served if the jury considered and ruled on the evidence.

During Lee's final argument, he said the defense wanted the jury to look at the violence with blinders on and ignore how, albeit circumstantial, the evidence all leads to John.

"Is there a possibility of anyone else doing this, yes, but it's not unreasonable that John did," Lee said. "There is a lot of circumstantial evidence in the case, but that doesn't preclude you from finding John Sebeck guilty. Consider all the evidence, not the single parts the defense would have you do."

The defense presented one new witness and recalled Teresa Sebeck.

CCSD Det. Jeff Maynard, who is not trained in arson investigation, testified that he was not called to the crime scene on May 18. However, citing all cases are handled on an individual basis, Maynard said he was notified about the arson investigation the day of Teresa Sebeck's interview May 19, 2008.

"It was to determine if there was a conflict of interest for our department in the case," Maynard said. "Teresa works with Child Protective Services and we have worked closely with her on several cases."

After the interview, Maynard said the department turned the case over to ISP for further investigation.

Williams said he recalled Teresa Sebeck to answer only one question.

"Did you talk to the police about a person standing in the backyard of your home a few weeks before the fire?"

Teresa said yes, then explained her son and a friend were unnerved when they saw the unknown man standing near the deck at the back of the home.

"Our house is located next to Eel River," Teresa said. "People wander through our yard all the time."

The defense rested without John Sebeck taking the stand.

Williams reminded the jury in his closing arguments that his client is not required by law to testify, present any evidence to prove innocence or to prove or explain anything.

"It's the burden of the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged. It is a strict and heavy burden," Williams said. "If the state is going to charge someone with class B felony arson, they should provide the jury with more than speculation. You as the jury should demand more evidence be presented when a person's liberty is at stake."

The jury unanimously agreed.

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If I was a betting person , I would look close to home.

I like about the tire tracks , that reminds me of the new tv show comming this fall CSI in clay county.

The defense presented one new witness and recalled Teresa Sebeck , did she have anything to gain? sure.

plumbbum, you are right about the stress and the 85 days. best bet move on. ask inmates what freedom is worth . they would give up 85 days and more.

not all inmates in jail are guilty, courts just want you to think so.


-- Posted by Sand mann on Thu, Feb 4, 2010, at 6:42 AM

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