Potential witness in Valpo murder trial will require special attorney
By James D. WOlf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent January 23, 2013 5:20PM
John Vouga. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 12:44PM
VALPARAISO — The upcoming trial of Dustin McCowan, 20, for the September 2011 murder of 19-year-old Amanda Bach hit a temporary snag that needed a special hearing on Wednesday.
The two attorneys now defending McCowan have also defended one of the prosecution’s witnesses, Daniel A. Grunhard, who claims McCowan admitted the murder to him.
John Vouga represented Grunhard for a January 2012 plea agreement that placed him into Porter County Adult Drug Court for crimes related to heroin use, and Nick Barnes represented him on Dec. 14 for a sentencing after Grunhard failed Drug Court and was put into the Westville Prison’s therapeutic program.
These factors presented a conflict of interest for both attorneys and for their firm, Vouga and Associates.
Porter County Superior Court Judge William Alexa ruled the firm had to find an outside attorney to handle cross-examination of Grunhard, or Alexa could appoint one.
According to one of three letters Grunhard wrote to the prosecution, McCowan admitted “he shot this woman because she crossed him and the gun he had was under the seat of his vehicle and he buried it so good nobody would ever find it.”
Grunhard also alleged in that letter and another to the prosecution that McCowan bragged about beating the state’s “weak case” at trial.
The two were incarcerated in the same pod at Porter County Jail and became friendly before McCowan was segregated after receiving a prison tattoo, Grunhard stated.
Grunhard was convicted of three Class D felonies and sentenced to three years in prison, although completing the therapeutic program could mean sentence modification.
Wednesday’s impromptu hearing came because of ethics concerns the defense attorneys had.
“We enjoy practicing law, and we do not want to lose our licenses,” Vouga said.
Alexa said he would also send a written notice to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, letting it know of his decision in this matter.
McCowan’s trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Feb. 4