Monday, January 3, 2011

The Mendenhall Chronicles: Prologue

It was a cold, overcast Saturday afternoon when Burke Mendenhall stopped by my downtown law office to chat. Burke’s son, Augustus (Gus) Mendenhall, had been found guilty but mentally ill in the attempted murder of Attorney and State Representative Ed Delaney just weeks earlier. Gus had received a 40 year sentence from Hamilton County Superior Court Judge William Hughes. If the sentence is not overturned, Burke, a man in his 60s, may not live to see his 39 year old son be free again.

Burke Mendenhall sat across from me at our law firm’s conference table, his longer than expected gray hair pulled loosely across his forehead. Beneath the bangs his eyes spoke of the exhausting battle he had been through. The eyes were misleading though. As Burke began to talk, I discovered someone who still had plenty of fight left. He had come to tell the story of what happened, an account that would be not distorted by the sound-bite nature of the mainstream media looking for easy stories to tell.

Those easy stories had portrayed Burke Mendenhall and his son, Gus, as obsessed by a lawsuit Delaney had pursued against Burke decades earlier, an obsession out of proportion to what happened. On the other side, the media painted a picture of Delaney as the kind, gentlemanly lawyer who had been just doing his job in the lawsuit against Burke Mendenhall decades earlier when Delaney was a partner at Barnes & Thornburg.

Stories told through newspapers and television reporters are rarely complete. In the installments to follow I will attempt to tell a story that fills in the gaps, one that does not excuse Gus Mendenhall’s actions that Halloween Day 2009 when he confronted Delaney, but rather explains the reason for the Mendenhall family’s resentment toward the attorney and now state representative.

“The Mendenhall Chronicles” tells a tale of the misuse of political power and influence in a private civil lawsuit. For those of us who steadfastly believe in the “rule of law,” the notion that the law applies equally to everyone regardless of one’s status in life, the Mendenhall Chronicles portray a disturbing story of how justice is subverted when the application of the law changes depending on the political power and contacts of the players involved.


Cato said...

Ends justify the means in Indiana.

Just remember: It's different here. The people you're picking on have unlimited power while inside this state.

Just as B&T runs Indy, I suspect there's a larger D.C. firm that runs Indiana, and perhaps a few other states.

Gus got 40 years on a first offense with a mitigating circumstance? There are murderers serving less than that. Did he accept this on a plea, or was it a jury verdict?

Diana Vice said...

Take it to the Supreme Court. They're overturning murder convictions of mentally ill people.