Blast suspect’s case moving out of Marion Co.

Mark Leonard walks into a Marion County courtroom. (WISH Photo)
Mark Leonard walks into a Marion County courtroom. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The trial of one of the suspects accused in the 2012 south side explosion at Richmond Hill will not be held in Marion County. A judge approved a change of venue motion for Mark Leonard on Wednesday after prosecutors dropped their objection to moving the trial.

Leonard’s attorneys filed a request to move the trial in January 2013, due to what they called “extensive pretrial media publicity” in the case. Prosecutors had objected to that request, saying they believed a fair and impartial jury could be found in Marion County.

To sort the issue out, Judge Sheila Carlisle ordered the two sides to attempt to select a test jury.

After questioning just 20 test jurors Tuesday, the two sides agreed on a 12-member panel. An additional 12 jurors were selected during an afternoon session. The numbers were so overwhelming, and compiled so quickly, that prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the remaining jury pool and keep the case in Marion County.

The judge denied that request, and the two sides set out to interview another 58 test jurors Wednesday morning.

But, following a lunch break, Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson made an unexpected announcement.

“I went back and looked at the questionnaires (given to test jurors), and I have some grave concerns,” she told the judge. “I believe 19 of the 29 remaining jurors would have to be dismissed for cause. There were another 10 cause challenges granted this morning, and 11 remain under advisement. Because I believe there could be an appellate issue, the state will move to dismiss its objection to defendant’s change of venue motion at this time.”

That dismissal was accepted by Judge Carlisle, who agreed to move the case. A decision on where and when the case will be tried will be made by the judge at a later date, prosecutors said.

Leonard’s brother, Bob, and Monserrate Shirley also each face nearly 50 counts of murder and arson in connection with the case. They are each being tried separately, and have also asked for their trials to be moved outside Marion County. Change of venue hearings have been scheduled in their cases in August and September.

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