Accused in Amanda Bach murder, McCowan trial set
By James D. WOlf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent January 4, 2013 3:00PM
Provided mug shot of Dustin McCowan who is being held in the Porter County Jail on suspicion of murder. McCowan was brought back from Bloomington, IN., to face charges in the disapearance and murder of Amanda Bach whose body was found Saturday aftenoon near railroad tracks just south of the town of Wheeler. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 6, 2013 6:10AM
VALPARAISO — Final preparations for the trial of Dustin McCowan, now 20, for the murder of 19-year-old Amanda Bach began Friday and will continue Wednesday.
Porter County Superior Court Judge William Alexa on Friday approved two motions made by defense attorneys Nick Barns and John Vouga and delayed about seven others — as well as some made by the prosecution — until a Jan. 9 special hearing or the trial.
McCowan is accused of shooting Bach in the throat on Sept. 15 after she visited his family home in Wheeler.
Alexa has set aside the entire month of February for the trial, with jury selection beginning Feb. 4 and lasting through Feb. 5 with both sides getting three hours for their turns at jury selection.
“The vast majority of our motions are to allow the court to refine the scope of testimony,” Vouga said after the hearing.
“Hopefully after Wednesday, it won’t be a month long. We’re trying to whittle down unnecessary or repetitive witnesses just for judicial resources being preserved. Nobody wants a trial to last a month,” he said.
One prosecution motion addressed Friday adds two more potential witnesses to the more than 150 already listed. Deputy prosecutor Cheryl Polarek said the witnesses are people they could call, and she expects they will call half of what they’ve sought approval for.
Polarek is trying the case with chief deputy prosecutor Matthew Frost.
Other prosecution motions were for evidence.
The two motions Alexa granted for the defense were for the Porter County Jail records of Charles Aaron Wade III, who has pleaded guilty to two Class B felony charges for forcing his ex-girlfriend into a car trip at knifepoint, and for bringing a former Porter County Jail inmate back from Westville before the trial.
Barnes said the most significant defense motion is a hearsay objection to the testimony of a neighbor who said she heard a male voice in the McCowan backyard the night of the murder repeating “Amanda, come on, get up, Amanda, get up.”
“We don’t believe it falls under any of the exceptions (to hearsay rules),” Barnes said.
Alexa said he wouldn’t restrict who could attend the Jan. 9 hearing on motions, although he would restrict those allowed in court during jury selection to the media and potential jurors.
The judge had restricted access to Friday’s court call to those with court business to avoid crowding.
“We just can’t do it. Fire codes prevent that,” Alexa said.
For jury selection, both sides chose to have one-and-a-half to two hours in the afternoon on Feb. 4, after Alexa’s usual court call, and the rest on the next day. The courts will call 65 potential jurors Feb. 4 and 50 on Feb. 5, and trial proceedings will last from 9 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., the judge said.
Alexa will continue having court calls on Monday and Friday mornings during the trial to avoid backlogs of other cases.
Both sides also chose on Friday to have opening statements last an hour each.