Judge refuses to step aside from Richard Allen case


CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. – Special Judge Fran Gull decides to stay on the case involving Delphi murders suspect Richard Allen.

Allen, who faces four murder charges in connection with the February 2017 deaths of Abby Williams and Libby German near the Monon High Bridge in Delphi, Indiana, is expected to stand trial in October.

Indiana State Police revealed Allen’s arrest in October 2022, over five years after the teenagers were murdered. However, legal complications have hindered the progression of the case since his apprehension.

His defense team filed a motion for Gull, appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court to supervise the case following the previous judge’s departure, to step down from the proceedings. This marks the third attempt by the defense to disqualify Gull from the case.

After reviewing an appeal from Allen when Gull previously tried to dismiss his defense team, the state’s highest court rejected the motion to remove Gull from the case. A request for disqualification was submitted in October 2023.

Subsequently, in January 2024, the defense lodged a motion to have Gull recuse herself from the case. In a ruling issued on Feb. 7, she denied this motion, which represents the second effort to eliminate the judge.

On May 17, the defense submitted another motion to disqualify Gull. In response, she filed a six-page order on Monday addressing several concerns raised by Allen’s defense. Ultimately, she dismissed the motion.

Questioning the Judge’s Impartiality

Gull rebuked the defense’s assertion that she exhibited bias by treating the prosecution more favorably, pointing out that adverse rulings were issued to both parties during the case.

The defense blamed the court for allegedly allowing “ex parte pleadings” to reach the state inadvertently. However, Gull clarified that those documents marked as “confidential” by the defense were available to the state, not the public. She noted that such communications should have been filed under “ex parte” and provided the defense with guidance on the proper filing process.

Photo of Judge Fran Gull (provided from WANE)

The defense alleged that the court treated their motions differently from those of the prosecution. Gull stated that she scheduled hearings on certain recent motions but had to postpone them due to the defense’s motion to disqualify her from the case. Each time the defense files a motion, she clarified, the state has the right to respond within 20 days.

“The Court has made adverse rulings against the defendant and the State of Indiana. Adverse rulings do not warrant skepticism of the Court’s neutrality, nor do they justify disqualification; they are merely adverse rulings,” Gull emphasized.

Concerns About Trial Length

Gull addressed claims from the defense that they would not have sufficient time to present their case during the trial. A motion for a speedy trial was filed by the defense on March 6, which Gull granted, advancing the trial dates from October 2024 to May 2024.

Following a request for a pretrial hearing on April 30, Gull scheduled it for May 7. However, the defense did not indicate before the May 7 hearing that the trial timeline was deemed inadequate, raising concerns that there wouldn’t be ample time to present their case.

“At no point prior to May 7, 2024, did the defendant express the belief that additional time could be added to the trial without due notice to the Court, witnesses, or jurors,” Gull noted in the order.

Gull acknowledged that delaying the trial until October had negative repercussions for both the defendant and the State, but contended that this delay could have been avoided had the defense raised concerns regarding trial length before the May 7 hearing.

The defense argued that they’ve never been informed that a trial would “definitely end on a specified day and not extend further.” Gull deemed this claim irrational, emphasizing that judges routinely set trial dates that commence and conclude on predetermined dates.

Andrew Baldwin (L), Richard Allen (C), Bradley Rozzi (R)

According to Gull, the court is not obligated to assure “equal time” for the prosecution and defense, but rather to ensure “adequate time” on the calendar and “sufficient notice to jurors and parties to present their case, regardless of duration.”

“Had Counsel notified the Court within days of receiving the March 7, 2024, Court Order setting the case for speedy trial May 13-31, 2024, that the time allotted on the calendar was insufficient, the Court would have immediately rectified the situation and extended the trial to May 13 – June 14, 2024,” Gull stated. “Trial is now set for October 14 – November 15, 2024, as requested by the defendant.”

Concerns on Funding

Gull also addressed defense contentions that the court had denied reasonable funding requests, refuting these claims as inaccurate.

She stated that the court is well informed about the authorized funding amount for the defense; however, asked the defense to provide proper invoices and bills for funding. Some invoices were rejected as they lacked essential documentation.

One example cited was a $26,000 invoice for “investigative services” that initially lacked supporting documentation. The required documentation was subsequently submitted, and the court sanctioned the payment on May 17.

Maintaining Public Confidence in the Case

The defense contends that “public confidence in this case has diminished,” according to Gull.

She asserted that criminal cases are adjudicated in a legal Court, not based on public opinions. Gull underlined the necessity for judges to render decisions based on the law and facts independently of public sentiment or fear of backlash.

Gull acknowledged receiving and forwarding to the state and defense emails and messages from the public criticizing the court, both personally and professionally, and issuing threats against the court for her case management.

She indicated awareness of social media memes and emphasized that the court must remain impervious to inappropriate external influences.

Cameras in the Courtroom

The defense alleged bias by the court in rejecting requests to allow cameras in the courtroom. Initially, on Oct. 19, 2023, Gull permitted cameras for a planned hearing in Allen County, where it was disclosed that Allen’s defense team would step back from the case, resulting in significant legal developments.

Judge Fran Gull announces the withdrawal of Richard Allen’s attorneys from the Delphi murder case on Oct. 19, 2023

However, due to concerns over the media’s handling of pool coverage during the October 2023 proceedings, Gull reversed her decision on allowing cameras in court.

Since the October hearing, Gull has dismissed all subsequent requests for cameras in the courtroom lodged by various media outlets.

Allen’s trial is slated to occur from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15 in Carroll County, with jurors from Allen County selected to preside over the case.

Matt Adams
Matt Adams
Digital Reporter. Matt’s beat includes Indianapolis and beyond. He’s brought readers extensive coverage of the Indiana Automatic Taxpayer Refund, developments in the high-profile Delphi murder case and crime stories of interest in central Indiana. Beyond work, Matt is a published author who enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy. He’s a diehard fan of the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers and Cincinnati Reds.

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