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Man again seeking new trial in LaPorte teen’s 1993 killing

LAPORTE — A man serving a 40-year prison sentence for the 1993 murder of a 16-year-old LaPorte girl is again seeking a new trial.

Lawyers for Jason Tibbs said Monday the wrong man was convicted for the murder of Rayna Rison and they now have the evidence to show it.

Russell Brown and Scott King, attorneys handling Tibbs’ appeal, said the defense made a mistake in not presenting the findings of an FBI analysis of evidence during Tibbs’ 2014 trial.

They said the test results showed trace amounts of fibers in Rison’s hair were consistent with the carpeting in the trunk of a vehicle belonging to her brother in-law Ray McCarty.

The now-deceased McCarty was charged in 1998 with Rison’s murder.

The charge was later dismissed when the new administration at the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office cited lack of evidence after its review of the case.

McCarty was convicted of molesting Rison just a month before she was strangled and her body found a in a rural northern LaPorte County pond.

During his trial, Tibbs’ defense attempted to link McCarty to the killing, but chose not to ask the court for permission to present the FBI’s test results to the jury.

John Tompkins and Scott Pejic, the trial lawyers for Tibbs, explained there were difficulties scheduling an FBI agent involved with the analysis to come and testify about the findings.

The request for a new trial says the same test results contained in transcripts from the grand jury proceedings that resulted in McCarty being charged were also excluded wrongly from Tibbs’ defense.

Instead, Tompkins said he tried entering McCarty’s indictment into evidence.

However, any reference to the previous charges against McCarty was kept out of the proceedings by the trial court, fearing such information would unfairly prejudice the jury in favor of Tibbs.

‘’I screwed up,’’ Tompkins said.

Tibbs was convicted largely on the testimony of Eric Freeman, who claimed he witnessed Tibbs strangle Rison and then helped him dispose of the body.

Lawyers for Tibbs claimed Freeman was given certain information about the case from investigators and ‘’coached’’ on how to testify.

According to evidence in the case, Tibbs and Rison once dated and prior to her death, she turned down his request for them to begin seeing each other again.

Similar arguments for a new trial were rejected in 2016 by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which ruled no direct link to McCarty in the killing had been established.

King said the direct link is now provided by the test results, which procedurally could not be presented or considered by the appellate court.

LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos said he expects to rule on the request for a new trial before the end of November.

Link to original article

Coverage in the South Bend Tribune

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Russell W. Brown Trial Attorney Northwest Indiana

Russell Brown Jr. primarily focuses his practice on criminal defense and post-conviction relief. He has helped many clients take advantage of the new expungement laws, providing them a clean slate. Mr. Brown also has experience navigating through the complex laws and administrative regulations of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, assisting clients with obtaining a valid driver’s license.

Mr. Brown’s experience also includes criminal appeals. He has successfully written briefs and participated in oral arguments, obtaining relief for clients. In addition to criminal defense, Mr. Brown also has experience in education and personal injury. When not at the office, Mr. Brown enjoys coaching his son in sports and officiating varsity basketball games in the area.

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