New Richmond Hill trial venue to be selected within 2 weeks

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

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The clock is now ticking on an announcement of where the first trial in the 2012 south side explosion at Richmond Hill will be held. A judge’s order directs a new venue to be selected within the next two weeks.

Judge Sheila Carlisle agreed on Wednesday to move Mark Leonard’s case outside Marion County, after prosecutors dropped their objection to his change of venue request.

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 initially objected to that request, saying they believed a fair and impartial jury could be found in Marion County. But, following the selection of a “test jury,” prosecutors said they believed keeping the case in Marion County could create an “appellate issue.”

Following the ruling, Judge Carlisle issued an order instructing the two sides to “determine if there is an agreement as to a receiving county for the change of venue.” That agreement must come within three days, according to state law.

If the two sides can’t agree on a county to move the trial to by Monday, state law says Judge Carlisle must provide a list of eligible counties by Wednesday.

“Absent an agreement, the court will thereafter submit to the parties a list of counties from which each side may alternatively strike until one county remains,” the order reads.

Under state law, that striking process must be completed within seven days, unless the court agrees to extend the deadline to 14 days.

Regardless of where Leonard’s trial moves, prosecutors said Wednesday they will push for it to begin in late January or early February 2015.

Both Bob Leonard, Jr. and Monserrate Shirley, who face nearly identical charges in the case, have also asked for their trials to be moved outside Marion County. Both requests remain “under advisement,” after hearings previously scheduled on them were cancelled by the court.

No new hearing dates have been set for Shirley. Bob Leonard is scheduled to return to court for an evidence hearing in September. A hearing on his request for bail has been set for October.

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