News and Tribune

May 8, 2013

Clark County site of capital murder trial for Vanderburgh County

Media attention in Evansville pushed case to Jeffersonville

By GARY POPP
gary.popp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —

Attorneys in an Evansville double-child-murder case prepared for the upcoming trial during a hearing Tuesday in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1.

Jeffrey Alan Weisheit, 37, is believed by Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s investigators to have set fire to an Evansville home in 2010, while his girlfriend’s children, ages 5 and 8, were inside.

He has been charged with two counts of murder and A felony arson, and Vanderburgh County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The case is being held in Clark County because of the media attention the case has received in Vanderburgh County.

The trial is scheduled to begin June 3.

Weisheit is being represented by court-appointed attorney Michael McDaniel, of New Albany, whose motion to continue the trial to a later date was denied by Judge Dan Moore during the hearing.

“About 10 days ago a prosecutor first furnished us with 78 and a quarter hours of taped conversations between the accused and family and friends while he was in Vanderburgh County Jail,” McDaniel said.

He said the length of the recordings is too long for a designated forensic psychiatrist to review before the approaching trail date.

“Our evidence is going to be that he has lost some brain mass through trauma,” McDaniel said. “The more conversations we can get with him, the better picture we can get of how his mind functions, and that can be important in a capital case.”

He said Weisheit has experienced brain trauma through a series of automobile accidents, a fight outside of a bar involving brass knuckles and while being struck with a Taser during an arrest, which resulted in blood on his brain.

Some of the incidents occurred before the fire was set that resulted in the deaths of the two children.

“All the brain damage is in the frontal lobe affecting memory, reason, and decision making, so we have an outstanding competency motion still pending,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said he expects a ruling on whether Weisheit is competent to stand trial next week.

“I anticipate that having brain damage and being competent in Indiana is two different things,” McDaniel said. “You can have a hell of a lot of brain damage and still meet the competency qualifications. So we will see.”

He said expects the trail to take place on the scheduled date.

McDaniel said Weisheit has held tight to his claim that he did not start the fatal fire.

“The defense believes there is some serious problems with the investigation, fire scene and some other matters,” he said. “We are going to challenge their evidence — everything they’ve got.”

Vanderburgh County prosecutors were not available for comment.

The jury will be comprised of Clark County residents.