[The Brazil Times nameplate] Fair ~ 59°F  
High: 72°F ~ Low: 53°F
Thursday, May 5, 2016

Proceedings in area case come to halt

Friday, July 1, 2011

Michael Phelps
The Clay County Courthouse was a buzz of activity Friday during court proceedings to pool a potential jury from local residents in an attempted murder case in Morgan County. However, a motion requesting a bench trial midway through the questioning of jurors halted the proceedings.

Michael Phelps, 16, Martinsville, was waved into adult court for his alleged involvement in a school shooting in March.

On March 25, Phelps allegedly shot Chance Jackson, 15, on the grounds of Martinsville West Middle School. Jackson, who sustained severe internal injuries, is still recovering.

According to court documents on file in Morgan County Superior Court 1, Phelps is currently charged with class A felony Attempted Murder, class B felony Aggravated Battery, a class C felony violation of Indiana Code 35-47-2 (Handguns), class D felony trespass on school/research facility/bus, class D felony possession of firearm on school property/bus and class D theft.

In May, court proceedings determined the case had received enough media attention that a change of venue with regards to paneling a jury from another county would allow for Phelps to receive a fair, impartial and unbiased jury trial.

Clay County was selected for the "voir dire" proceedings.

On Friday, the Clay County Sheriff's Department and Indiana State Police provided assistance to Morgan County law enforcement officials, who were in charge of Phelps safety during the proceedings.

"It really wasn't that much different than any other type of court proceedings venued into our court proceedings," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton told The Brazil Times Friday. "We provided assistance, that's all."

Attorneys Steven Sonnega and Robert Cline appeared in court on behalf of the state, with Steven Litz appearing with Phelps.

Seventy-five local residents were notified to appear for the proceedings, which began at approximately 8:30 a.m.

After two hours of providing instructions and questioning potential jurors, Litz approached Judge G. Thomas Gray about a mutual agreement in the case.

Phelps would waive his constitutional rights to a jury trial and request a bench trial.

During a bench trial, a judge listens to all the evidence presented during a trial and makes a ruling as to the judgment of guilt or innocence.

Apparently the prosecution and defense, after realizing most of the potential jurors were aware of the high-profile case, agreed it was more beneficial to have a bench trial to ensure a fair trial in the case.

On July 11, Judge Gray will preside over Phelps' bench trial in Morgan Co. Superior Court.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: