Indiana Supreme Court upholds murder conviction, 60-year sentence in Union Township slaying



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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and 60-year sentence of a northern Indiana man in his ex-girlfriend's shooting death.

Dustin McCowan, 22, was found guilty of murder two years ago in the September 2011 slaying of Amanda Bach, 19, of Portage. Her body was found in a wooded area less than 300 yards from the Union Township home that McCowan was living at with his father.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld McCowan's conviction and sentence last April, and the state's high court reached the same ruling on Wednesday.

The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/1BNUmQw ) reports defense attorney Thomas Vanes may pursue the challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court or pose a local challenge.

The defense had claimed a judge failed give the jury proper instructions. The judge turned down a defense request to tell jurors "to fit the evidence to the presumption that he (McCowan) was innocent." The state Supreme Court found overall instructions met such requirements per state law.

The court ruling Wednesday clarified that jurors should be told "the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." The state Supreme Court also said the defense can now request another jury instruction that jurors specifically "fit the evidence to the presumption" of innocence.

Defense challenges to cell phone evidence of McCowan's location were not addressed by the state Supreme Court. It also didn't consider a challenge to the trial court judge's decision not to recuse himself after learning of a jail phone call in which McCowan makes threatening remarks about prosecutors, police and their families.

Porter County prosecutors were pleased with the state Supreme Court's ruling to uphold McCowan's conviction, as were Bach's parents.

"We are still deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our beautiful daughter Amanda," her parents said in a statement. "We hope that The Amanda Forum will keep Amanda's name alive as well as educate others about the potential of dating violence around the country."


Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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