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Day 1: 'Stop wild west corrupt justice'

Melissa Topey • Jun 2, 2014 at 6:15 AM

Update 4:46 p.m. — About a dozen protesters greeted Attorney General Mike DeWine's team at the Sandusky County Courthouse today, carrying protest signs. 

"DeWine show us you really do protect Ohio families," was the message plastered on one protest sign.

Another sign asked DeWine to "Stop this wild west corrupt justice." 

The grand jury concluded for the day at about 4:30 p.m. 

Attorney General prosecutor Matt Donahue refused to comment after the proceedings ended. He and the AG's office have refused to detail the grand jury schedule, but Sandusky County court administrator Brock Kimmet said he was told the next session will be May 13.

Protesters are unhappy with DeWine and his prosecutors, saying they fear he does not intend to present evidence that would lead to any indictments. It's not clear if any witnesses, Fremont police officers or Sandusky County jail guards were ever interviewed in the last seven months since DeWine agreed to conduct a criminal investigation. 

Two previous grand juries in Sandusky County involving local law enforcement headed up by DeWine found no criminal wrongdoing, including the sexual exploitation of a mentally ill inmate at the jail who was denied her medication. The woman was kept naked in an observational jail cell for hours by jail guards and encouraged by them to masturbate and perform other lewd acts.  

The protesters said they fear the same result could occur with this grand jury. 

Dr. Michael Baden, a key witness who evaluated the autopsy report, witness statements and other information and determined Craig Burdine was the victim of a homicide in the jail on Aug. 11, 2007, was never contacted by the investigators. 

Jess Burdine, Craig Burdine's father, has said previously he fears DeWine won't allow evidence to be presented because he wants the grand jury to affirm the official story local officials told about how Craig Burdine died.

There were no witnesses called today to testify, and Donahue and one Bureau of Criminal Investigation were the only officials involved in the investigation inside the hearing room today. Donahue, during an initial meeting with Jess Burdine, cautioned him that the statute of limitations might preclude any criminal indictments, although it is unclear how that would be accurate. The investigators also previously told him he waited too long to ask for investigation even though he's been asking for one for more than six years. 

A BCI agent also told Jess Burdine his public comments were hurting the case, Jess Burdine told the Register. The agent cautioned Jess Burdine against making comments to the Register or appearing on the Register's public affairs talk program "Between the Lines." 

Jess Burdine and Mike Limberios, whose family also was disappointed with the results of a previous grand jury headed up by DeWine will be the guests Wednesday on the program, which is tentatively scheduled for noon Wednesday from the Sandusky County courthouse. 

Update 2:32 p.m. — Attorney General Special Prosecutor Matt Donahue and BCI agents have started presenting their case to the grand jury. It is expected this will last until about 4:30 p.m.

It is unknown if Donahue will call any witnesses today.

Update 1:56 p.m. — The Sandusky County grand jury has arrived back at the Sandusky County courthouse. The Burdine case was expected to begin at 1 p.m. but preceeding grand jury cases delayed the start.

Update 10:02 a.m. — The Sandusky County grand jury that will hear the Burdine case has been seated.

It took a little over an hour to select the jury.

The grand jury consists of five men and four woman from Bellevue, Woodville, Fremont and Clyde.

They are currently hearing an assault case from Green Springs police.

It is expected they will start to hear evidence presented by attorney general special prosecutor Matt Donahue in the Burdine case at 1 p.m.

Check back here at sanduskyregister.com all day for updates and information about witnesses called to testify.

Original post, 8:50 a.m. May 6: Amid protesters and supporters of the Burdine family, abourt 30 county residents gathered on the second floor of the Sandusky County Courthouse this morning as the selection process for a grand jury began.

The grand jury is expected to begin hearing evidence this afternoon from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's criminal investigation into the death of Craig Burdine at the Sandusky County Jail in August 2007 after the selection of jurors is complete.  

DeWine began the investigation in August — six years after Craig Burdine died — at the request of Jess Burdine, Craig's father, because the Fremont police and the Sandusky County sheriff had refused to conduct any criminal investigation or respond to the Burdine family's questions about how Craig Burdine died.

He was brought to the jail severely injured after a fight occurred at a Fremont home. The Fremont police initially called for an ambulance but canceled the call and took him to the jail after Craig Burdine allegedly kicked an officer. After he died, the Fremont police officers and jail guards who dragged Craig Burdine into the jail from a police cruiser all said he was being combative.

But surveillance video from the cruisers and the jail show Burdine was barely conscious when he was brought to the jail. He had injuries all over his body, including an open wound to his head and a severe burn on his back. He died shortly after he was brought inside the jail.

Sheriff's detective Sean O'Connell told Jess Burdine there would be a thorough investigation of how Craig died, but that never happened.

Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser ruled the death to be self-inflicted caused by drug and alcohol intoxification and excited delierium, a condition often used as a cause for sudden deaths of persons in police custody but rarely used for deaths that do not involve police.

The family asked Dr. Michael Baden, a famed forensic pathologist, to review the autopsy, witness statements and other information and Baden determined Craig Burdine was the victim of homicide. Baden also said the alcohol and drug levels were fartoo low to cause excited delirium.

During the seven months since DeWine began the criminal investigation, his prosecutors never contacted Baden. Jess Burdine and his family fear DeWine does not intend to present evidence of any wrongdoing and will use the grand jury to affirm the official story local officials told about how Burdine died. 

Jess Burdine — and Baden — contend Craig Burdine's death was caused by a chokehold a jail guard used on his son after they dragged him inside the jail. Craig Burdine was shocked with a Taser repeatedly, Jess Burdine said, and was still handcuffed and shackled when he died. 

Jess Burdine and Craig's brothers, Eric and Todd, all are attending today's hearings. 

About 10 supporters of Justice for Jake & Ella, a group supporting the Burdines and other families that contend wrongdoing by Sandusky County officals, also are at the courthouse. 

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Check back here at sanduskyregister.com all day for updates and information about witnesses called to testify. 

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