Voters would be wise to extend Donat's tenure considering the choice for his replacement is former prosecutor and former judge, Laura Zeman. She's the former in both for good reason.
Her stint as judge turned into a three-ring circus as Tippecanoe County residents were fed a steady diet of her love for Ricky Martin via the local newspaper. She even made national news for it. Having a Ricky Martin kissing poster behind the bench certainly did not present a professional judicial image. Many Tippecanoe County citizens were embarrassed by her notoriety for it.
But what turned voters off the most was her arrogance. She was known for belittling defendants in the courtroom. Once she scolded an indigent and mentally-handicapped man who was sincerely attempting to be respectful to her. His mistake was when he addressed her as "Laura." (But can you blame him for thinking she was approachable on a personal level after all the Laura Zeman loves Ricky Martin headlines?) Zeman gave the man a stern tongue-lashing that no one who was there that day has forgotten.
She was hired as a deputy Tippecanoe County prosecutor after she was thrown out of office by voters, but that didn't last either. Is anyone going to ask the question as to why she suddenly left that job and is now working part-time for the Clinton County prosecutor? Is it true she had a falling out with the Tippecanoe County prosecutor? If so, what was the disagreement about? Was she fired, or did she quit? These are all fair questions for voters to be asking.
Her job as a Tippecanoe County prosecutor was to prosecute sex crimes. That job served to highlight her incompetence as one of her most recent convictions was overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct.
It was a case involving an alleged child molestation (Michael Gaby vs. State of Indiana).
The defendant accused Zeman of Prosecutorial Misconduct after she told the jury that she was "confident" that they would "come to the same conclusion" that she and the police detectives had come to." The appellate court agreed. Laura Zeman personally vouched for the witness' credibility, which is a fundamental error and gross lack of judgment.
As someone who served as a judge for six years she should have known better and the appeals court sharply admonished her in their ruling.
"It is inappropriate for a prosecutor to make an argument which takes the form of personally vouching for a witness," stated the appellate judges. They also noted that it violated the Rules of Professional Conduct: "A lawyer shall not... in trial, allude to any matter that the lawyer does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by admissible evidence, assert personal knowledge of facts in issue except when testifying as a witness, or state a personal opinion as to the justness of a cause, the credibility of a witness, the culpability of a civil litigant or the guilt or innocence of the accused.."
Zeman also broke the rules by trying to "refresh the memory" of the witness after her answers on the stand were quite different than what she had earlier stated. The appeals court addressed that as well:
"It is fundamental that a witness' memory can be refreshed only after it has been established that the witness has no memory concerning the facts in question..."[W]here a witness has testified positively and readily so as to indicate that his memory is not obscured, one may not be permitted, in the guise and on the pretext of refreshing the witness' recollection, to make use of a favorable memorandum with an actual view to contradicting the witness or inducing him to change testimony...This is precisely what [Laura Zeman] did in the present case."
Another reason that voters should be wary of electing her to office is because her role as a prosecutor will certainly influence her decisions in favor of the prosecution. There is a reason that a majority of police officers in the Greater Lafayette community are supporting her. They like the fact that she will throw the proverbial book at defendants. No mercy (unless, of course, you're a bully cop)! We've already seen how some of those cops misbehave. Click here to refresh your memory.
Laura Zeman is Facebook friends with many local cops. Would any one of us feel comfortable going before her in a courtroom when the arresting officer is one of her "friends?" This type of scenario could happen if citizens don't show up en masse to make sure it doesn't become our worst nightmare.
Laura Zeman might be fun to go to a Ricky Martin concert with, but she's much too dangerous to sit on a courtroom bench.
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