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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Ind. Courts - More on "The Good Wife" and a two-jury trial; three-jury trial proposed in Indianapolis

On Jan. 13th the ILB compared a recent showing of The Good Wife featuring a case with two defendants, two sets of attorneys, and two juries, all tried together in the same courtroom before one judge, with then-current talk in the Richmond Hill explosion case of a concurrent trial with three juries, one for each defendant.

Last evening, however, WISH TV's Troy Kehoe reported:

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Marion County judge has denied a request from prosecutors to try all three suspects in the 2012 Richmond Hill explosion case at the same time. That means each suspect will likely face their own lengthy trial.

Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard, Jr. are each accused of more than 50 counts of arson and two counts of murder in connection with last year’s deadly house explosion in the Richmond Hill subdivision.

In October, Judge Sheila Carlisle granted a request from their defense attorneys to sever their cases, allowing each to be tried separately. Prosecutors had argued since the three were arrested together that they should be tried together. Separate trials could more than triple the costs and take as much as one year to complete, they argued.

Because of that cost and time commitment, prosecutors filed a motion in late November asking for each of the suspects separate trials to be held at the same time, in the same courtroom, but with three different juries.

Defense attorneys voiced concerns that that plan could cause logistical problems, and could put the fairness of such a trial in jeopardy. They also argued that there are no legal grounds in Indiana for the request to be granted.

In a ruling issued out of court late Friday, Judge Carlisle denied the prosecution’s request, saying it could interfere with the suspects’ rights to a fair trial.

“All parties are in agreement that this is a complex case that may involve over 200 witnesses, multiple exhibits and several weeks of trial. Therefore, the State of Indiana’s concern for judicial economy is well taken. However, this must be weighed against the defendants’ right to a fair trial, which comports with due process,” Carlisle wrote in her ruling.

Carlisle also wrote that [no?] Indiana statutes explicitly authorize a trial court to order such concurrent trials, nor is there any precedent of such a request after a judge had already ruled that defendants would be allowed severed, or separate trials.

“The potential benefits of a multi-jury trial are outweighed by the significant potential for prejudice,” Carlisle went on to write in the ruling. “To ensure a fair trial for the State of Indiana and each defendant in these cases, the Court believes separate trials are necessary.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 4, 2014 08:47 AM
Posted to Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions