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Judge changes in Franklin murder case

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The judge who originally sentenced a man to death for killing a Franklin College student won’t hear his latest appeal after she asked to be removed from the case.

The Indiana Supreme Court ordered a new hearing last year to decide whether Michael Dean Overstreet is mentally competent to be put to death. Overstreet was convicted of abducting, raping and killing Kelly Eckart in 1997.

Johnson Superior 2 Judge Cynthia Emkes heard the original murder trial and sentenced Overstreet to death after a jury found him guilty in 2000. She was supposed to preside over the new hearing, which is one of the last efforts by Overstreet’s attorneys to try to stop the execution.

Emkes requested the case be given to another judge because she has been undergoing medical treatments and can’t commit the necessary time to the case, according to court documents. The Supreme Court agreed to her request last month.

The court requested that Judge Jane Woodward Miller of St. Joseph County hear the arguments in Johnson County, or the case could be transferred to her court in South Bend. Two Marion County judges were selected as backups if Miller cannot take the case.

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