JEFFERSONVILLE — Attorneys involved in the case of a man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend and consuming parts of her remains have agreed to seek jurors from outside of Clark County.
On April 25, attorneys for Joseph Oberhansley and the Clark County Prosecutor's Office agreed the jury would come from a pool of Hamilton County residents. A jury order from May 9 instructs the Hamilton County Jury Administrator to issue summons for "1,000 additional prospective...jurors," court records show. Noblesville, the seat of Hamilton County, is roughly 25 miles north of Indianapolis.
The April hearing was in response to a January 2015 motion by the defense for change of venue, which states that Oberhansley would be unable to receive a fair trial in Clark County in part due to "public hostility against him, public outrage over the offenses that have been alleged, prejudicial news reporting... and the existence of prior criminal records."
Oberhansley faces a charge of murder and a level 4 felony for robbery related to the September 2014 death of his ex-girlfriend, 46-year-old Jeffersonville woman Tammy Jo Blanton. If convicted, the state intends to seek the death penalty. The trial is set for Aug. 19 at 9 a.m. in Clark County Circuit Court No. 4.
Prosecutor Jeremy Mull filed a notice May 16 that the state will be ready for trial on Aug. 19. On Tuesday, the defense filed a notice saying they would not be ready for trial on that date.
Part of the reason the case — now more than four and-a-half years in the works — has taken so long is due to Oberhansley's back-and-forth status of competency to stand trial. He was most recently found competent in July after being found incompetent in October 2017. He spent several months at a state mental facility before being transferred back to Clark County last year.
But after his return, attorneys filed a motion in suggesting that their client was not, in fact, competent — "Since returning from Logansport State Hospital, Mr. Oberhansley continues to express bizarre and irrational beliefs in meetings with defense counsel and defense investigators when discussing the case," the motion reads, in part.
"Mr. Oberhansley is suspicious, paranoid, uncommunicative and agitated whenever he meets with defense counsel and their investigators."
Judge Vicki Carmichael granted new competency evaluations, but in November, attorneys on both sides agreed to cancel a hearing on the matter, based on new mental evaluations.
As the trial draws nearer, the court has ruled on other outstanding motions in the case — five of those were settled April 30.
Carmichael denied the defense's motion that said Indiana's death penalty statute was unconstitutional, with Carmichael citing that it was permissible under both state and federal law, and that any changes to that law would come from the Supreme Court.
She also denied a motion for there to be separate trials for the charges and penalty phases, as well as a motion requesting that jurors not be stricken over religious beliefs related to the death penalty. Carmichael approved a motion that would allow jurors to be questioned individually on matters of capital punishment, life without parole, mitigation, pretrial publicity and undue hardship.
Oberhansley has pretrial conferences scheduled for May 31 at 9 a.m. and June 28 and July 22, both at 1:30 p.m.