A judge was recently appointed to oversee the Delphi murders case after the original judge with jurisdiction submitted a request to recuse and disqualify himself from the high-profile cold case trial.
Allen Superior Judge Frances C. Gull has already begun preliminary work on the criminal prosecution, according to The Journal Gazette. Those efforts include travel to the Carroll County Courthouse. There, Richard M. Allen, 50, will stand before his peers and national media.
Allen stands accused of abducting and murdering 14-year-old Liberty “Libby” German, and her friend, 13-year-old Abigail “Abby” Williams. The two girls went missing while walking the Monon High Bridge Trail near Delphi, Indiana, on Feb. 13, 2017. Their bodies were later moved to a different location and “staged,” authorities say.
On Wednesday, Gull reportedly spoke with officials and staff about Allen’s upcoming trial, the Gazette reported, though details or themes of those discussions were not explicitly relayed in the terse report.
Journalist James D. Wolf Jr. did note, however, that Gull does not plan to conduct any aspect of the trial outside of Carroll County.
“Everything will be in Delphi,” the judge told the paper.
Gull was appointed to adjudicate the trial by the Indiana Supreme Court on Nov. 3, 2022, the same day Carroll County Circuit Judge Benjamin Diener took himself off the case without an explanation – which is not required under Hoosier State law.
A reformer of sorts, Gull typically works as the administrative judge of the criminal division in the Allen Superior Court. In 2015, she was recognized and awarded the Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation by the National Center for State Courts.
“Judge Gull has dedicated the past 10 years to electronically upgrading Allen County’s Superior Court jury management system,” the organization said in a press release issued at the time. “She assisted with the establishment of mJuror, which allows constituents to perform several juror-related tasks electronically.”
Gull was first elected to her position 1996 and has been re-elected in ever subsequent election since then, according to her biography on the Allen Superior Court. Her commission began in January 1997.
“During nearly 25 years on the bench, Judge Gull has gained statewide and national renown as an innovator in areas including jury management, restorative justice and the use of technology in the courts,” the biography notes. “Since 2002, Judge Gull has supervised Allen County’s nationally renowned Drug Court program. The program, which promotes recovery from addiction and restoration of families torn apart by substance abuse. In 2020, the program was approaching 1,000 graduates, making it among the most successful and impactful in the country.”
Gull received her law degree from the since-defunct Valparaiso University School of Law, which shuttered in 2020 after being censured by the American Bar Association for admitting too many students who were not capable of internalizing legal education and passing the bar exam.
Gull’s first legal job was clerking for the court where she would eventually serve as judge. For nearly a decade, from 1987 to 1996, she worked in the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office.
The next hearing in the Delphi murders case is currently slated for Nov. 22, 2022. That hearing is formally scheduled to address a number of sealed evidentiary documents in the tightly-guarded case. Local law enforcement have been particularly secretive about numerous details thus far – even the defendant’s current location, as well as the probable cause for his arrest and charges, are currently a mystery.
Gull told the Gazette she also intends to deal with a recent request from Allen for the court to appoint him a public defender.
“I think there’s no sense in scheduling another hearing,” the judge said.
The trial is set to begin on March 20, 2023.
[image via Allen Superior Court]
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