Judge: Richmond Hill suspects to get separate trials

Judge rejects request for concurrent trials

INDIANAPOLIS - A judge has ordered separate trials for three defendants charged with causing an explosion that killed two people and devastated an Indianapolis neighborhood.

Friday's ruling by Marion Superior Court Judge Sheila Carlisle rejected a prosecution request that the three trials be held at the same time, but use different juries.

Carlisle said the potential benefits of a multi-jury trial are outweighed by potential prejudice. To ensure a fair trial, she denied the State's request for a concurrent trial.

Prosecutors had requested to have three separate juries hear the evidence at the same time to save money and spare victims from testifying three times.

Attorneys for Monserrate Shirley, then-boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother, Bob Leonard, previously argued in documents filed in Marion Superior Court that there is no proof a single trial would save time or resources while posing greater risk of possible harm to their clients.

The defendants face charges of murder and arson for a November 2012 explosion that killed two of Shirley's neighbors and wrecked dozens of houses in the Richmond Hill subdivision on the city's far south side.

The presiding judge wants to know by Feb. 28 if attorneys will be ready to start the first case on June 16.

The order of the trials would likely start with Mark Leonard, followed by Shirley and conclude with Bob Leonard.

Each trial could take up to six weeks and each defendant faces possible life in prison without parole.

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