Former Indianapolis prosecutor will not be disciplined despite findings of misconduct
A prosecutor who worked for Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry will not face discipline despite findings of prosecutorial misconduct in two separate criminal cases.
Former Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Gillian DePrez Keiffner was the lead prosecutor in two criminal cases where the Indiana Court of Appeals found that Keiffner committed misconduct.
In Brandon Brummet’s case, the appellate court said that Keiffner repeatedly made derogatory comments about Brummett’s lawyers in front of the jury. As the court explained, “Here, the prosecutor not only impugned the integrity of defense counsel but also suggested that the role of defense lawyers was to help guilty men go free.” The court also found that Keiffner improperly vouched for the credibility of a prosecution witness and inappropriately commented “on the justness” of the prosecution. Finally, the court found that Keiffner committed misconduct by unfairly badgering Brummett when he testified in his own defense — at one point asking him to say which girl he “enjoyed touching” more. The court vacated Brummett’s convictions, a decision that was later affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court.
In Bruce Ryan’s case, the Court of Appeals said that Keiffner committed misconduct by suggesting to jurors that Ryan wanted a jury trial “to try to get away with his crime,” telling jurors that the defense argument was a “trick” designed to let “guilty people go free,” and urging jurors to convict Ryan in order “to send the message that we’re not going to allow people to do this.” Although the Court of Appeals vacated Ryan’s convictions, the Indiana Supreme Court later reversed course, finding that the misconduct didn’t rise to the level of “fundamental error.”
A bar complaint was filed against Keiffner due to her behavior in both cases and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission sought disciplinary action against her. Although the Court of Appeals had found prosecutorial misconduct in the underlying criminal cases, that fact alone was not enough to result in disciplinary action against Keiffner.
Despite finding that the Disciplinary Commission had not met its burden of proof against Keiffner, the Indiana Supreme Court emphasized that Keiffner’s conduct was inappropriate:
We caution that by no means should our opinion today be read as an endorsement of Respondent’s actions. For the reasons outlined in Ryan and Brummett, we continue to disapprove of arguments that invite a conviction for reasons other than a defendant’s guilt, impugn the integrity of defense counsel, or otherwise create a “good guy / bad guy dichotomy” between the respective roles of the State and defense counsel.
According to the Indianapolis Star, “Of the approximately 550 criminal cases that were appealed in Marion County from January 2012 to July 2014, the Court of Appeals reversed only two because of prosecutorial misconduct, according to the prosecutor’s office. And both involved Keiffner. “
Keiffner previously received a reprimand from the Indiana Supreme Court after she was arrested for drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident in July 2009, and ended up pleading guilty to the lesser charge of reckless driving. She resigned as a prosecutor following that incident but later rejoined the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in 2010 after Curry was elected. She is now in private practice.