St. Joseph County investigators, prosecutors accused of helping fabricate testimony

NOW: St. Joseph County investigators, prosecutors accused of helping fabricate testimony

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - New allegations threaten to overturn multiple felony murder convictions handled by the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office and the now-disbanded County Metro Homicide Unit.

In recent court filings, the prosecutor's office is accused of strategically placing inmates at the St. Joseph County Jail near murder suspects, with the intention of drawing a confession. And there's evidence suggesting those informants were fed information by investigators to give false testimony under oath.

Jermaine Munn is serving a 130-year sentence for the murder of Jarina Bailey in 2013. He's also serving a consecutive sentence for a separate murder case.

Now, attempting to get that conviction overturned, Munn’s attorneys claim a jailhouse informant who testified against Munn was fed information to fabricate testimony. Munn’s defense team claims these allegations are backed up by five unnamed witnesses.

There's also a letter from the witness, written to St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter during the course of the trial, saying in part, “I would like to go over my statement. It's very important that you send someone, so I don't mess up on the stand. I have a very bad memory Mr. Cotter… please, thank you. Cotter for mayor!!!"

Munn is requesting a special prosecutor to handle his case because Cotter could be called as a witness.

Cotter claims he has seen no credible evidence to prove these allegations of a scheme to fabricate testimony.

“If there were investigators who were feeding information to individuals, at some point that would come through,” Cotter said. “Conspiracies are hard to hide. Because at some point it’s going to come out on multiple occasions, by multiple people.”

This is not the first allegation that the prosecutor's office relied on false testimony to secure a murder conviction.

In November, St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley granted a new trial to Tyre Bradbury based on new evidence of a jailhouse witness saying they lied under oath.

Bradbury was convicted of murder for his involvement in a shooting that led to the death of a 2-year-old in South Bend.

In Bradbury's petition to have the case overturned, it was shown a jailhouse witness sent an email to Bradbury's former attorney saying, "I'm 100% doing this on my own free will because it's the right thing to do. I was coached into doing this. I was given information/facts about the case from homicide detectives. Tyre never admitted guilt to me… the entire thing was bogus and all set up."

That witness claims they've testified in multiple homicide trials.

“Is there a concern? Of course. Any time there's an allegation, there’s a concern,” Cotter said. “But doing the due diligence of investigating those, at least thus far, there’s been no credible evidence that investigators have in any way tainted those witnesses' statements by giving them things, or by telling them things, or showing them things.”

These cases took place when the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit handled investigations for the South Bend, Mishawaka, and St. Joseph County Police Departments.

The unit disbanded in 2021, when South Bend took over its own homicide investigations.

Criminal defense attorney Stan Wruble, who’s not tied to any of the cases making these claims, says if these allegations are proven true, it would have wide-reaching impacts.

“These allegations are extremely serious. And if proven, I think you’re looking at multiple murder convictions being overturned,” Wruble said. “And I think that calls into question the entire fairness of the criminal justice system in St. Joseph County.”

Cotter tells ABC57, if a witness says they lied on the stand it triggers a review of any case where they testified. After looking over these cases, Cotter says victims' families shouldn't be worried whether investigations were mishandled.

“For those families, I think they know how hard the prosecutors who are in the courtroom work on the case to get justice for their family, how hard the investigators work to get justice, and the last thing we want to do is help a way that justice is denied for them,” Cotter said.

Tuesday morning, a judge issued an order to preserve evidence in the Jermaine Munn case. The next hearing is scheduled for March 15.

The prosecutor's office has not filed a formal response to his attorney's accusations.

A third case, involving the murder conviction of Shyheem Jones, is making similar claims of perjured testimony in an attempt to overturn Jones’ conviction.

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