Monday, March 12, 2012
The Indiana Supreme Court has imposed a public reprimand of the elected prosecuting attorney for Marion County. Since his election in 2002, the prosecutor's office has brought nearly 100 murder cases and sought the death penalty in five cases.
The prosecutor was charged with "making public statements as a prosecutor that had a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicate proceeding and a substantial likelihood of heightened public condemnation of criminal defendants."
The allegations were in two counts - one involved a press conference and the other a press release. The hearing officer concluded that the rule violations were not proven.
The press conference involved a defendant who faces murder charges in other states. The prosecutor discussed DNA evidence, said the crime scene was "awash in blood," and stated that he was confident of a conviction. In fact, the defendant was never charged in Indiana.
The court agreed that the press conference did not violate Rules 3.6 or 3.8.
The press release involved a case in which seven family members had been murdered. The case garnered a significant amount of media attention.
The court found that a portion of the statement fell "well outside" permissible comment. In particular, the prosecutor said he "would not trade all the money and drugs in the world for the life of one person, let alone seven."
The case discusses the application of the "substantial likelihood of material prejudice" test and the "safe harbor" provision of the rule. (Mike Frisch)