By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
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."
One issue still up in the air involves when Cummings acted as a police officer and when he acted as a prosecutor, because the specifics could affect how the case is handled. Barker wrote in her report that it was too early in the investigation to make a call, and that decision will be made later.
Now the case moves into the discovery phase, which could take several more months, according to Dvorak.
In April, Cummings admitted he’s never been involved in such an unusual case. He said he’s been sued a number of times, but the Goudy case is peculiar because appeals don’t usually get all the way to the Seventh Circuit Court and get overturned. The next and final appeal would have been to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s unusual for everything to get upheld until that point. It’s a little different, but it’s part of the job,” Cummings said.
Cummings maintains Goudy is guilty and a danger to society.
Goudy was convicted of the 1992 murder of Marvin McCloud and attempted murder of Damon Nunn. At the time, Cummings said it was a dangerous incursion of the Crips gang into Central Indiana. Goudy had also been convicted of four separate felonies in four other states under four different aliases.
The conviction was overturned by the Seventh Circuit on the grounds that Goudy deserved another trial. A follow-up case wasn’t made against him.
“It’s important to remember that the court didn’t exonerate (Goudy),” said Cummings. “They simply said he was entitled to another trial. And it’s hard to bring another case against a person 20 years after the fact.”
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