Richmond Hill suspect wants statements tossed at trial

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) One of the suspects accused in the Richmond Hill explosion says statements he made to police nearly two years ago should be thrown out at his trial.

In court filings made public this week, Bob Leonard claims his rights were violated, prosecutors said. He claims investigators never told him he could remain silent, and that detectives coerced incriminating statements from him by promising “leniency” that he never got.

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 the November 2012 explosion on the city’s south side.

Trial dates for all three suspects still have not been set, but both sides are preparing by filing final motions.

They include requests from both Bob and Mark Leonard to divide the trial into separate murder and arson phases, requests to limit or exclude specific witness testimony and crime scene photos and videos at the trials, and a request that Bob Leonard be released from jail on bail before trial, according to court filings obtained by I-Team 8.

“All the motions that were filed were, for the most part, expected. We knew there would be a lot of pre-trial motions coming, because the court had set a deadline for June 23. The court has given us time to respond to all of these motions. We’ll have responses on file before the deadline date, and we’ll respond to each motion individually,” Marion County Prosecutor Denise Robinson told I-Team 8.

Robinson gave some insight into what those responses might be, including that the statements Bob Leonard objects to are not of particular importance to the state’s case.

“Given that he made no directly incriminating responses, at this juncture, I’m not sure we would be using his statements in any event,” Robinson said. “Certainly, we disagree with the allegations of coercion. But, that being said, I don’t believe his statements to be particularly relevant.”

Robinson also said she’s puzzled over Bob Leonard’s request for bail after he’s already spent more than 18 months behind bars.

“I was actually surprised by that motion coming this late,” she said. “There’s been substantial time previously to make that request. I’m not sure of the basis of it at this juncture. I do know the judge has set it for a hearing, and we’ll be prepared to respond to it.”

That response will include a “strenuous objection,” Robinson said.

I-Team 8’s calls to Bob Leonard’s attorney seeking comment on the motions were not returned Wednesday.

Judge Sheila Carlisle also set hearings on several other outstanding motions in each case, including requests that each trial be moved outside Marion County, or have an outside jury brought in, due to heavy pre-trial publicity.

Last year, prosecutors said it was unlikely the trial would be moved.

Now, Robinson said she’s not so certain.

“I don’t know what will happen,” she said. “That’s why we have the venue motion coming up the week of July 28. I think we’ll have an answer by the end of that week with regard to the Mark Leonard case.”

Moving any of the trials could be cumbersome: the two sides have already amassed more than 30,000 pages of discovery documents, not including depositions and more than 100 additional boxes of evidence from the scene.

“The primary difficulty in this trial is the sheer amount of evidence, the size of the evidence, and the need to secure that evidence,” Robinson said. “We also have a number of witnesses–more witnesses in this case than the [David Bisard] case–who would have to be coming to this other county. From our standpoint as prosecutors, yes, [changing venue is] an inconvenience. But, it’s not one I haven’t dealt with before. So, we’ll be prepared to go wherever we need to go.”

Hearings on other outstanding motions aren’t scheduled until early fall. Once they are completed, Robinson says prosecutors will push for a start date in the first trial in late January or early February of 2015.

Right now, Mark Leonard is set to be tried first, and Robinson said prosecutors will be ready.

“We had told the Richmond Hill residents and the Longworth family that this would be a long process,” she said. “Even without the life-without-parole [request], we knew this case would take a substantial amount of time to prepare. But, we’ve reached that point. It’s time.”

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