VALPARAISO — In hopes of assuring that Christopher Dillard receives a fair trial this week on accusations of stabbing a woman to death two-and-a-half years ago, officials are calling in as many as 150 potential jurors.
The first batch of 50 potential jurors is scheduled to show up Monday morning, followed by 50 more later that day if needed, according to courthouse officials.
If a group of 12 jurors and a few alternates are not seated by the day's end, another 50 potential jurors will be brought in Tuesday morning by Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer.
The evidence portion of the trial is expected to begin Tuesday or whenever the jury is selected, according to the court. Three weeks of court time have been set aside for the trial.
The decision to bring in three times the number of potential jurors as usual is in response to concerns by the defense that Dillard will not receive a fair trial because of publicity surrounding the case.
Clymer has twice denied a request by the defense to move the trial out of Porter County or bring in potential jurors from another county, who are less likely to have read details of the case and formed an opinion.
Dillard, 53, of Hobart, is charged with murdering 23-year-old Nicole Gland, of Portage, on April 19, 2017, by stabbing her in her vehicle in a parking area behind the former Upper Deck Lounge, 139 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton, where they both worked.
Dillard, who was picked up by police the same day of the killing, told his girlfriend while at the Chesterton Police Department, "I killed that girl. I didn't mean to," according to the charging information.
"He indicated to her that the drugs had a hold of him," police have said.
But the Indiana Appellate Court tossed out the confession, saying that police ignored the man's repeated requests for an attorney. Dillard requested an attorney three times during the nearly 11 hours he was held in a small interrogation room at the Chesterton Police Department, the court said in its 27-page ruling.
The Indiana Supreme Court then denied a request by prosecutors to consider reversing the state appellate court ruling.
Dillard, who has remained behind bars without bond, as is standard in murder cases, made a failed attempt in August to persuade Clymer to release him on his own recognizance while awaiting trial. The judge said he was not convinced by Dillard's arguments that prosecutors were responsible for enough of the delays in his case to have resulted in him being held longer than six months without yet going to trial.
Clymer also rejected a request by the defense earlier this month to dismiss the murder case based on accusations that a Chesterton police officer disregarded or even misplaced a knife discovered in the wake of the fatal stabbing. The judge cited conflicting testimony of those involved in the discovery of the knife and the defendant's failure to prove that the police officer involved acted in bad faith.