Court docs reveal likely judge in Richmond Hill explosion trial

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WISH) St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha will likely preside over the trial of south side explosion suspect Mark Leonard, court documents obtained by I-Team 8 revealed.

Court filings show the case was assigned to St. Joseph Superior Court 2 on Wednesday. Marnocha is the judge assigned to oversee Court 2, and has copies of Leonard’s case file, court documents show.

The move comes after a judge granted Leonard’s request to move the trial out of Marion County late last month. Last week, Marion County Judge Sheila Carlisle ordered the case moved to St. Joseph County, after prosecutors and defense attorneys “struck” other choices off a provided list of possible venues.

Marnocha will likely be called on to preside over what could become the largest and most expensive criminal case in state history, involving more than 200 witnesses, 2,000 pieces of evidence and 30,000 documents. The trial of each of the three suspects charged in the Richmond Hill explosion case is expected to take up to six weeks, prosecutors have said.

Marnocha, a graduate of Indiana University and Valparaiso University School of Law, was appointed to the bench in St. Joseph County in 1999 by Governor Frank O’Bannon. St. Joseph County judges are not elected, but appointed by the Governor upon recommendation of the St. Joseph County Judicial Nominating Committee. St. Joseph Superior Court Judges serve a first term of two years, followed by subsequent terms of six years if they are renewed by a retention vote at the general election.

In his 15 years on the bench in South Bend, Marnocha has presided over high profile cases before, including one that garnered national exposure last year when a jury found former chairman of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party Owen “Butch” Morgan guilty of forgery in an alleged ballot fraud scheme in the 2008 Presidential election.

Portions of a related conviction on a co-defendant in that case were overturned by the Court of Appeals earlier this year.

When Leonard’s trial might begin is now up to Marnocha.

Prosecutors are pushing for an early February start date. Leonard’s attorneys say they won’t be ready for trial until April.

No new court dates have been set in the case.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said Wednesday that the selection was by “random draw” out of a selection of St. Joseph County’s four major felony court judges. Curry declined to comment on Marnocha’s likely selection to the case.

Mark Leonard’s co-defendants Bob Leonard, Jr. and Monserrate Shirley have also asked for their trials to be moved out of Marion County. Their requests have been placed under advisement by Judge Carlisle.

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