Family slams DeWine

Burdines contend attorney general is misleading grand jury, avoiding evidence and skipping eyewitnesses
Melissa Topey
Jun 10, 2014

topey@sanduskyregister

FREMONT

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's lead prosecutor on Monday brought a parade of witnesses in front of a grand jury hearing evidence in the 2007 jailhouse death of Craig Burdine. 

But prosecutor Matt Donahue didn't call any of the officers or the jail guards who fought with Burdine before he died inside the jail on Aug. 11, 2007.

Donahue isn't presenting a valid case to the grand jury, according to the Burdine family, and he's shielding them from evidence and misleading the jurors.

“I think he is pandering to the jury with false information to give them doubt,” said Eric Burdine, Craig's brother, who testified last month and again Monday, the only day this week the grand jury will meet in the Burdine case. 

Watch interview with Jess Burdine

Donahue has presented information to the grand jury just seven days in the last five weeks, and he's skipped calling key witnesses and other eyewitnesses to what occurred the night Craig Burdine died. 

He also hasn't called Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser, who conducted an autopsy, or Dr. Michael Baden, the famed New York forensic pathologist who determined the death to have been a homicide.

Beisser's report concluded Burdine's death was self-inflicted, caused by alcohol and drug intoxification, and a condition known as excited delirium. The ruling suggests a use of deadly force investigation would have been required, but the sheriff's office and Fremont police didn't conduct any criminal investigation after he died.

Police Chief Tim Wiersma and Sheriff Kyle Overmyer never provided an explanation why there was no criminal investigation. 

DeWine agreed in August to conduct one after being pressed by the Burdines.

Wiersma and Overmyer also have declined to offer an explanation or comment about why information in the written statements from officers and guards about Burdine being combative doesn't reflect what the available surveillance video from police cruisers and jail cameras show.

DeWine also has refused any comment, and the Burdines have come to believe he's covering up what occurred to protect local officials from civil litigation or potential criminal charges.  

Donahue focused more than three days of the grand jury hearings on the Burdine family, calling Eric, his sister Laurie Burdine and their father Jess Burdine, 80, to testify, none of whom were at the jail when Craig Burdine was killed. 

Donahue has been openly hostile to them, they said. He's also misrepresented information and ignored Laurie Burdine when she testified, taking a phone call at one point when she was answering a juror's question. 

Most all of the other people called to testify have no first-hand knowledge of what occurred and Donahue is intentionally attempting to sway the grand jury from returning criminal indictments, Eric Burdine said.

He's having people testify who don't know anything about what occurred to avoid having the people who were there, or who reviewed the scientific evidence that exists from the autopsy and medical reports, testify. 

The county grand jury also is hearing other criminal cases, Eric Burdine said, and testimony about his brother's death has been sporadic over six weeks to the point where no one could keep it straight.

“If it was straight through with all these frivolous witnesses eliminated we could have been done in 7 to 10 days,” he said.

There were 11 witnesses called Monday; some testified for as little as five minutes. 

Read live coverage posts from Day 7

An unknown silver-haired man in a suit testified about an hour. He carried a thin file folder with him into the courtroom, which is closed to the public.

Donahue and the AG's office refused to say whether the man was the expert they told the Burdines they preferred to use over Baden and Beisser. Jess Burdine said one of DeWine's investigators told him they had a pathologist who was “better than Baden.”

Others called to testify Monday were:

• Robert Collins— It was Collins' home where Craig Burdine was injured in a fight. Collins said he testified to the altercation and to what he saw as police tried to arrest Craig Burdine. In surveillance video from a police cruiser still at the home after Craig Burdine was arrested and taken to the jail, an officer can be heard calling out to people still in the area asking whether they saw Burdine kick at an officer. The video does not show the alleged kick or show anyone come forward with information about what they might have seen. 

• Joesph Alejandro — Alejandro lived on Sycamore Street, across from the home where the altercation occurred. Alejandro said he testified he and his daughter were asleep when they woke to find his car was dented and had blood on it.

• Juan Levario — His home, next door to where the altercation happened, was the home Craig Burdine is said to have rammed his head into that night.

It's not clear what the information the witnesses provided about the altercation might have to do with what occurred inside the jail before Craig Burdine stopped breathing. 

Tina Tack-Anderson, a dispatcher at the jail, also testified but she declined to discuss her testimony when asked by a reporter.

When they arrived on the scene the night he died, Fremont police officers initially called for an ambulance but canceled it after recognizing Burdine when he allegedly kicked at an officer.

See autopsy photos and photos of alleged injuries officers sustained

The guards and officers all wrote statements after Burdine died that described him as combative, but all the available surveillance video from the police cruisers and the jail show Burdine was just semi-conscious, or already unconscious from the time police first encountered him. Officers pepper sprayed Burdine before he was handcuffed and arrested.  

He was still handcuffs and shackled when they dragged him from the police cruiser into the jail, where he was Tasered repeatedly by an officer.

One guard also stated he thought he'd broken Burdine's arm after hearing a loud crack during the scuffle with him.

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Comments

Blue.Streaker

A definition of "crazy" is doing the same thing over and over, hoping to get a different result.

The Sandusky Register continues to beat on this story of a guy who got drunk, got drugged-up, threw someone into a fire, fought with the cops who came to arrest him, and ended up dying. The SR tells the story over and over and over, examining every possible jot and tittle, hoping to engender sympathy from its readers.

There is sympathy, indeed, but it is for this unfortunate family who continues to have its hopes for vindication kept glowing by a newspaper which cares only for ad revenues and paper sales.

The SR cares only for versions of the story which support its narrow (and unlikely) view of what happens. It glorifies opinions of people who were not there and totally ignores the reports of those who were. It criticizes the AG for not calling the suspects to testify, but ignores the fact that granting them immunity is the only way to obtain their testimony. It bemoans not calling certain witnesses, but complains about not knowing who many of the witnesses are.

Matt: The SR's policy on these cases is the journalistic equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church. You push your cherished constitutional right to the very limit of tolerance in order to make a few cheap dollars; you encourage your few misguided followers to make a lot of noise, citing a higher authority which will eventually validate your claims.

The Westboro Baptist Church does the same things over and over, expecting a different result. Those people are crazy.

Ditto the Sandusky Register.

Lil DAB

Merriam Webster Definition of CRAZY: "full of cracks or flaws"
Sounds more like you are describing the AG prosecution if you ask me!

You keep saying, the SR "totally ignores the reports of those who were" present at the beating. How can they be ignoring them when they refuse to talk and answer reporter's questions?

Misguided followers? Comparing the SR & those that are closer to the truth to the Westboro wackos? SMH

The SR has not made any "cheap dollars" from me. I prefer getting online to read the news and updates. It's quite apparent you still follow the story pretty close, and have your own strong opinions. You're allowed but others are not?

As your moniker initials represent you...B.S

Babo

Quote from Blue Streaker:

"It glorifies opinions of people who were not there and totally ignores the reports of those who were. IT CRITICIZES THE AG FOR NOT CALLING THE SUSPECTS TO TESTIFY, BUT IGNORES THE FACT THAT GRANTING THEM IMMUNITY IS THE ONLY WAY TO OBTAIN THEIR TESTIMONY. It bemoans not calling certain witnesses, but complains about not knowing who many of the witnesses are. [emphasis added]

Your writing indicates you agree that FPD officers and jail corrections officers were in fact complicit in his death as you believe they are the targets of this grand jury and can therefore not be forced to testify without a grant of immunity.

You ignore two ways the grand jury could hear the testimony of suspects:

First, the AG could offer immunity to some of the officers in an effort to get them to give up the others. That's a tried and true method used by prosecutors all the time to obtain indictments and later convictions.

Second, some of the officers could agree voluntarily to testify before the grand jury. For example, an officer who truly believes their conduct was appropriate would want to testify to see justice done and his or her name cleared.

Thus, I don't understand your objections. If you believe some of the officers did have something to do with his death as your comments indicate, then it follows you should want to see this grand jury be privy to all available evidence through a professionally conducted investigative grand jury.

This stop and go nonsense with the regular grand jury that hears testimony from law enforcement in other cases(not an investigative grand jury) conducted by a special prosecutor from the AG's office who is clearly not highly motivated does not even approach the standard citizens are entitled to expect from government attorneys.
My question is why do Judges Ansted and Dewey, responsible for oversight of the regular grand jury, allow their grand jury to be coopted by the AG to run IMO a "show grand jury"?

sandtown born a...

Blue Streaker= Anti justice and all Pro Sandusky County Law Enforcement probably said corrupt official himself

Ctwhalers

Bluestreaker burdine had burns on his back if I am correct. I think he was in fire not other way around.

Laughingatwttb

No you're completely wrong on that. He threw another man in the fire and he was pulled in as well.

Ed Longknocker

Good post as far as grammar, and structure, but devoid of understanding. Arrogant people can justify any action, no matter how heinous. With these "officials" you are dealing with individuals who have zero respect for any human being whom does not measure up to their ideals of what constitutes "good citizens," as opposed to their favorite moniker "trash." In their investigations they propose to know the answer, then go about finding the facts to support that answer, not the other way around Law Enforcement 101 my friends. In dealing with such slippery, and self-justifying actors sometimes dogma, and stubbornness is the only way to get the point across. These are people emboldened by a series of actions without any serious consequences. Let us pray they are found guilty in the upcoming trial. If one can get away with murdering a man in cold blood (regardless of his past history), what comes next? People in Nazi Germany were pretty content when Hitler went after the gypsies, prostitutes, and such "trash," until he came after them (the so-called "good people"). This is a culture of arrogance, bigotry, and self-justification, and yes possibly rampant corruption.

Ed Longknocker

Law and justice will prevail, as it always does in time. The exodus of "rats fleeing from the sinking ship," will continue and accelerate as they see the guilty parties, found out, and their careers destroyed.

OakieHarbor

How can a grand jury be expected to keep evidence straight from case to case with the hop scotch justice? Can not seem to recall a case being split up like this, is there a legitimate reason? The only thing I figure is they want to keep the case from the spotlight as much as possible and limit the effectiveness of the demonstrations being put on at the Courthouse. After all the shenanigans and mis-steps you would think this would be crafted as to assure everything was "To the book" and beyond reproach. If anything dragging this out only allows more people to question the power that be, and the official record of events. The only way for the Tax payers of Sandusky County to be able to trust their elected officials is for them to become more transparent, do things to established protocols and self govern them selves with the highest degree of professionalism that is to be expected of the position.

Babo

This ought to be an "investigative" grand jury as opposed to the regular grand jury. Undoubtedly some of the LEO's and CO's who ought to be targets of the grand jury are testifying before this same grand jury in other cases and can influence them. Also, the county prosecutor who serves as legal counsel to many of the "targets" is also interacting with this same grand jury and has an opportunity to influence them

sash

I would guess the biggest problem is witness availability and scheduling conflicts since Mr. Donahue has other jurisdictions to deal with. I only served on a Grand Jury once in another state, but we were allowed to keep a notebook during our session. The notebook couldn't leave the room, but we could use it for our notes and refer back to it when we had questions. We only had one case that was split up because of scheduling conflicts, but it wasn't any problem to switch back with our notes. If they aren't allowed to take notes or review the minutes, I'd think it could be confusing, but otherwise it shouldn't be a problem.

Babo

What about the conflicts with potential targets testifying before the grand jury on other cases or their legal counsel interacting with the grand jury in other cases?

IMO, it's unprofessional and the case is not being handled with the gravity that the case deserves.

sash

I have a little more confidence in the members of the Grand Jury than others do apparently. I'm pretty sure the jurors are aware that LE are the possible targets and are capable of weighing the evidence without being unduly influenced if one of those individuals testify in another case. They are either capable of being impartial, or they're not. What if they are biased against LE and want to stick it to them no matter what the evidence shows? Funny how that concern is never heard. How exactly would LE's legal counsel interact with the jurors on other cases? When did Ohio start allowing defense attorneys into Grand Jury proceedings? Would they announce they are also representing Officer X and ask them to please not indict?