Broken Heart: The Elkhart Police Saga Part 5
ELKHART, Ind. -- ABC57 Investigates continues to dig deeper into issues within the Elkhart City Police Department that could lead to one officer being fired. It’s the latest installment in our exclusive investigative series Broken Heart: The Elkhart Police Saga.
ABC57 first launched this investigative series back in September after we learned that Andrew Royer was exonerated of a murder he was previously convicted of almost 20 years ago. Part of the reason Royer was exonerated was because the prosecution’s witness, Elkhart Police Lieutenant Carl Conway, lied multiple times under oath.
The Elkhart Police Chief and Mayor told us on camera they wouldn’t be standing for this behavior and later said they want Conway fired.
But ABC57 Investigates uncovered a new twist in the story that involves Elkhart’s top legal expert. We’ve learned that when Conway was interrogating Royer and, allegedly coercing a confession, the current Elkhart County Prosecutor, Vicki Becker, admits to being present for at least part of the interrogation, and then put Conway on the stand during Royer’s murder trial.
So, did Becker know she was putting an officer on the stand who is accused of coercing a confession and lying under oath?
We sat down one-on-one exclusively with Prosecutor Becker to discuss Royer’s case and exoneration. We’ll let you decide for yourself.
After we learned in July that Andrew Royer was exonerated of his murder charge and released from prison, ABC57 Investigates began digging into what caused his exoneration.
We started with Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker. We asked her point blank if Lt. Carl Conway coerced a confession out of Andrew Royer.
Richard Bodee: “Do you think Detective Conway coerced a confession out of Andrew Royer?”
Vicki Becker: “I really… it’s probably not appropriate for me to do that. I can tell you… you know what, I do not believe he coerced a confession out of Andrew Royer. I saw quite a bit of it. It’s definitely not what it’s being painted to be, but I certainly don’t want to make myself a witness in anything. I was in and out of the room. I listened to the audio recording multiple times and no, I do not believe it was a coerced confession.”
Becker saying “I saw quite a bit of it” and “I was in and out of the room” is her saying that she was present for at least part of the interrogation of Andrew Royer dating back to 2003. In a deposition under the penalty of perjury, a former Elkhart Police detective also corroborated Becker’s presence at the Royer interrogation.
But did Becker tell the courts she was an eyewitness? The defense attorneys representing Royer say Becker didn’t.
“It’s shocking that for 17 years, Vicki Becker prosecuted this case, signed the initiation of charges against Andy Royer back in September of 2003, and withheld, from every single court, that she was an eyewitness to Andy Royer’s interrogation,” Elliot Slosar, an attorney on Royer’s legal team and a Notre Dame law professor who works with the Exoneration Justice Clinic, said.
Recall, Notre Dame’s Exoneration Justice Clinic, which is comprised of Notre Dame law students, played a central role in Royer’s exoneration.
Fast forward two years. In August 2005, Prosecutor Vicki Becker put Lt. Carl Conway on the stand. Conway lied several times over the course of Royer’s murder trial about feeding Royer information and about his knowledge of Royer’s mental capabilities.
Elkhart’s Chief of Police Kris Seymore called Conway’s perjury as “an assault upon the institution of justice” in a public nine-page letter and recommended the Elkhart Police Merit Commission fire Conway.
We asked Vicki Becker’s Office if she knew Conway was lying while on the stand. We also asked for a follow-up interview with her given these revelations. Her office declined.
Slosar says he believes what Vicki Becker did was wrong, and says it puts her entire track record as a prosecutor into serious question.
“For a prosecutor to sit there and withhold the fact that she witnessed this live, Andy’s counsel would’ve had the opportunity to cross-examine her if she had disclosed it,” Slosar argues. “A prosecutor who withholds evidence, that matters, and if a prosecutor would do that in a murder case, better believe they’d be doing it in lesser cases when people aren’t paying attention.”
In addition, we obtained new documents from 2012 that show Lt. Carl Conway was dropped from a Sex Crimes Unit.
We got Carl Conway’s Elkhart Police Department personnel file through a public records request. We reported what was in his file in Part 2 of our series. At the time, we learned written reprimands are not released.
At the time, we asked the Elkhart Police Department if there were more disciplinary reports involving Conway, but the department didn’t answer that question.
Recently, we uncovered these 2012 disciplinary documents that were not in Conway’s file, and if you read through them, there’s an important reason why they were excluded.
At some point in 2012, Carl Conway and another Elkhart Police detective were told they would no longer be part of a Sex Crimes Unit.
In June 2012, Conway called Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker, without supervision, regarding his demotion.
According to the documents, Conway’s call “caused the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office to lose faith in the Elkhart Police Department,” a claim that was later retracted.
We asked the Elkhart Police Department why Conway was removed from the unit and why he contacted Becker. We were forwarded to the City of Elkhart’s Law Department, who did not return our call.
We also asked Becker’s office why Conway was removed from the unit, why he called Becker, and who was notified of Conway’s demotion from the Sex Crimes Unit. She declined to answer those questions.
Ultimately in 2012, a deal was cut.
Conway was given a written reprimand, which again, is not publicly released. In exchange, the Elkhart Police Department agreed not to give Conway a one-day suspension, retracted allegations Conway went outside the department to voice his displeasure with his demotion and that his actions damaged the relationship between the prosecutor’s office and the police department, and finally, erased his demotion from the Sex Crimes Unit from his personnel file.
Conway was supposed to begin his hearing before the Elkhart Police Merit Commission to decide whether or not he keeps his job on Wednesday, October 6, but the hearing was pushed to next Wednesday, October 13.
ABC57 will be there and have updates for you as we continue to follow the Elkhart Police Saga.
For previous stories in the series, click here.