After a mistrial was declared last August on the first day of the trial because a witness brought information to the jury that both sides had agreed would be left out, 40-year-old Joseph Oberhansley was found to be incompetent to stand trial after being evaluated by two psychologists in January 2020.
Due to restrictions enacted in response to COVID, his transfer back to the Logansport State Hospital was delayed for two months and did not occur until May.
Tuesday, attorneys from both sides met on Zoom with Circuit Judge Vicki Charmichael to discuss the fact that Oberhansley's competency was restored and the trial may once again proceed.
“I’m thrilled that we’re advancing toward trial again on the matter,” Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull is quoted as saying by the News and Tribune after the hearing. “This is a case that needs to be tried and there needs to be closure for the family. So I’m happy that after this delay that we’re close to getting the defendant to trial again.”
The lead defense attorney Brett Westerfield expressed concerns about the trial taking place when COVID is still seen as a threat.
“I’m very concerned about trying to push a trial on a complex case like this under the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” News and Tribune quoted Westerfield as saying. “I’m concerned about the willingness of people to serve on a jury and making sure we have a fair cross-section of the community to select jurors from.”
Judge Carmichael has assured that the courts have taken necessary precautions to ensure everyone's safety and stated that masks will be required for those serving on the jury pool. Additionally, they will be adjusting the way that everyone is seated so that there can be more space as well as plastic shielding in place for the judge, attorneys, and witness stand.
Due to ongoing COVID restrictions, the court will not be allowing any spectators in the courtroom during proceedings. The trial will instead be made available through a live stream on the Indiana Supreme Court website.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin for this case on September 8th. This time, they will be pulling possible jurors from Allen County.
Attorneys have one more pre-trial hearing scheduled for August 31st.