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Court Of Appeals Rules Pickett Entitled To Bifurcated Trial, Former Wife Granted Immunity
Updated September 5, 2017 6:01 PM | Filed under: Crime
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(BEDFORD) - A man accused of murdering a Mitchell woman and burning her body is entitled to a bifurcated trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

A bifurcation is when a judge divides a trial into two parts. In this case, the first phase of the trial would involve the murder charge while the second phase would allow the state to introduce evidence of a prior conviction that would establish a charge of possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

Lincoln Pickett is charged with the murder of Kamie Ratcliff in 2016. Ratliff had been reported missing days before investigators found her remains behind Pickett's house. Police believe Pickett shot her and then placed her body in a fire. He's also charged with obstruction of justice, abuse of a corpse, false informing, failure to report a dead body and possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

Pickett's former wife, Jasmine Pickett, was charged with obstruction of justice, false informing and failure to report a dead body. On August 23, the court granted the state's motion for use of immunity for witness for Jasmine Pickett.

Lincoln Pickett's trial is set for September 11th at 8 a.m. in Lawrence County Superior Court I with Judge Michael Robbins presiding over the case.

Earlier this year, Judge Robbins denied Pickett's motion to bifurcate the trial when prosecutors tried to introduce evidence of a prior felony escape conviction that would support the firearms charge. Pickett appealed the ruling.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the court's decision in a ruling last week, saying the court made a mistake in denying Pickett's request for a bifurcated trial:

In the present case, Pickett's prior conviction for escape has no relevance to the charges he presently faces; i.e., it did not tend to establish intent, motive, knowledge, plan, identity, or credibility... The proposed instruction would be appropriate were the only charge against Pickett the SVF charge. The instruction avoids the use of the term "serious violent felon" by naming the prior qualifying felony and citing the statute. It would do nothing to ameliorate the prejudicial irrelevance in this case. Therefore, we conclude that the trial court erred by denying Pickett's motion to bifurcate the proceedings.

The crime:

Ratcliff, of Mitchell, was reported missing in January, 2016.

Police say Lincoln Pickett and his wife Jasmine were the last to see Ratcliff.

On January 28, 2016 Indiana State Police found a body in a bonfire at the couple's home at 3414 U.S. 50 while serving a search warrant looking for evidence linked to Ratcliff's disappearance.

Lincoln admitted to police that he placed Ratcliff's body in the fire but originally denied that he had anything to do with her death. He has since been charged with her murder.

The couple told police at that time Ratcliff "freaked out" in the couple's vehicle and shot herself. Since then Lincoln's sister informed police that he had admitted to shooting "a buddy in the face" after Ratcliff began hitting Lincoln in the head. She told police that she had not seen Lincoln for about six months, when suddenly he appeared at her home the morning of January 22. She told police he was driving his red Chevrolet Blazer.

"Lincoln claimed he had not slept or ate in two weeks, and he was pacing and bouncing," according to the probable cause affidavit.

She told police Lincoln had a "Taurus gun in his pocket." Lincoln then allegedly gave the gun to his sister. Lincoln then asked his relative to borrow a vehicle. That is when the two drove to Lincoln's house. On the way they stopped at a gas station. While parked in the lot, Lincoln's sister told police that she saw blood splattered on the driver's side rear window of the Blazer.

Once at the Pickett home, Lincoln allegedly backed the Blazer into the garage.

According to the probable cause affidavit, on January 24, Mitchell Police Officer Matt England went to the Pickett home to talk to them about Ratcliff's disappearance. Lincoln told police that Ratcliff could be in Ellettsville with a man named Dillon.

Then on January 25, Officer England returned to the Pickett home and the couple told him they had left to go to Walmart to buy diapers and formula and when they returned Ratcliff was gone.

On January 28, police returned to the home with a warrant to search for Ratcliff's belongings. When officers arrived there was a fire burning behind the home. "Within the fire, officers located what appeared to be bones," the affidavit states.

According to the Lawrence County Police log, at 2:42 p.m. officers requested Huron Volunteer Fire Department to the Pickett home to extinguish a small bonfire.

Officers then secured a search warrant for Pickett's home. Inside they found a loaded handgun under a mattress and three long guns.

Pickett is charged with Ratcliff's murder and is being held without bond.

Jasmine Pickett filed for divorce on August 22, 2016. Lincoln Pickett was service with the paperwork on August 29, 2016.

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