The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Cops, courts and fires

October 4, 2013

Judge reaches partial decision in suit against Cummings

ANDERSON, Ind. — A recent decision has allowed a federal lawsuit against Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings to move forward.

Cummings was sued in 2012 by Walter Goudy, a man who served 15 years in prison after a Madison County murder conviction in 1995. Fifteen years after the conviction, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision and ordered Goudy released in 2010. Two years later, Goudy and attorney Richard Dvorak filed suit against Cummings, seeking millions of dollars in damages.

In the suit, Dvorak alleged Cummings and investigator Steve Napier withheld evidence during the trial that would have resulted in Goudy being found not guilty. Dvorak argued Cummings used his office to try a case that no other reasonable prosecutor would have. Several alibi witnesses kept then-prosecutor William F. Lawler from pursuing the case.

Cummings and his attorneys filed a motion in April, asking U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the Southern District of Indiana to dismiss the case. On Monday, Barker issued a decision granting in part and denying in part the motion.

Essentially, Barker dismissed the State of Indiana as a defendant on the case, meaning Cummings and Napier now act alone as defendants. Barker also made a partial ruling on one issue, throwing out a claim of malicious prosecution by Dvorak. Indiana grants officials acting as prosecutors immunity from claims of malicious prosecution, and the law was upheld by lower courts in Indiana before reaching Barker.

Dvorak said on Friday he was pleased with the ruling, and the decisions in Cummings' favor were marginal.

"The bottom line is that the judge is allowing case to proceed against the defendants, and most of the claims have been allowed to proceed," Dvorak said. "We’re happy that we can move on with this litigation and ultimately prove Mr. Goudy was denied his fair trial."

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