Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

South Bend murder conviction subject of scrutiny after allegations of falsified testimony

File photo

A South Bend man convicted of a decade-old murder wants a new trial, claiming investigators with the former St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit organized a scheme to create false testimony against him, and potentially other murder suspects.

The person at the center of the case is 26-year-old Jermaine Munn, who was convicted of the 2013 murder of Ja'Rina Bailey in an apparent shootout between rival gangs. Munn was convicted in 2017 and given 130 years in prison for the murder and a gang enhancement.

Munn is now appealing that conviction based on an investigation by his attorneys which claims the prosecutor’s office coordinated a scheme to feed false testimony about murder suspects to jailhouse informants. Munn alleges investigators with the County Metro Homicide Unit (CMHU) knew jailhouse informants they could feed false information to for upcoming murder trials.

The investigators would also place these informants in the same cell blocks as the defendants awaiting trial to give juries the impression it was possible the suspects talked to the informants about their cases, according to Munn.

Court records show no witnesses at Munn's trial fingered him as the person who shot Bailey, but several testified he made incriminating statements while he was incarcerated after the fact. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Munn's conviction despite the lack of direct testimony, saying the jury heard that the jailhouse witnesses hoped to gain favor for their testimony but still found them credible.

In his petition for post-conviction relief, Munn cites one 2017 letter from a jailhouse informant who testified at his trial which reads in part “Please send the prosecutor that is on the Munn case to see me. I would like to go over my statement. It’s very important that you send someone so I don’t mess up on the stand. I have a very bad memory Mr. Cotter.”

Munn's filings also include claims from a handful of other witnesses that CMHU would put known informants near suspects and that the prosecutor's office knew about this practice. None of the witnesses are named in Munn's brief, but judge David Fransisco last week found the accusations were enough to warrant a special prosecutor to handle Munn's appeal.

"CMHU investigators interviewed the witnesses who testified against Munn. CMHU was operating under the direction of the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office," Fransisco wrote. "Wile that setup may provide great benefits for law enforcement to investigate and respond quickly in murder investigations, such a setup sometimes requires a check to ensure the investigation was handled properly."

Two retired prosecutors Christopher Gaal and Steve Levco will now take up the case on behalf of the state.

In addition the the murder of Ja'Rina Bailey, Munn is convicted of the murder of 18-year-old Nathan Hall, a high school student who was selling Munn marijuana when Munn and an associate robbed him.

Jailhouse informants

The prosecutor’s office has generally denied they solicited false testimony in Munn's case and Cotter has told ABC57 there's no evidence of a conspiracy as claimed by Munn.

Munn's filing does bear a resemblance to two other recent post-conviction attempts from two other South Bend residents convicted of murders in the mid-2010s who now say jailhouse witnesses lied to juries.

One such case was that of Tyre Bradbury, who sought to get a new trial after a witnesses wrote a letter to his lawyer claiming that witness had lied on the stand during Bradbury's original trial. As with Munn, Bradbury's lawyers claimed prosecutors committed misconduct. Judge Elizabeth Hurley didn't agree, but she did overturn Bradbury's conviction saying that a new jury should have the chance to evaluate if the witness was credible or not in light of the letter.

Instead of going to trial again, Bradbury admitted to a lesser charge of aggravated battery and is now out of prison based on time served.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.