Prosecutors: Monserrate Shirley trial shouldn't be moved in Richmond Hill explosion

State blames publicity on defendant

INDIANAPOLIS - Prosecutors are opposing a motion for the trial of Monserrate Shirley to be moved out of Marion County.

Shirley was one of three people arrested more than a month after the Nov. 10 explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood on Indianapolis' south side that killed two people and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes.

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James Voyles, a well-known Indianapolis defense attorney now representing Shirley, filed a change of venue request earlier this month.

Prosecutors responded in a court filing Friday acknowledging that there had been "widespread publicity" of the case, but asserting that much of that has to do with how those accused have responded.

"Much of the publicity, especially regarding defendants Mark Leonard and Monserrate Shirley, was occasioned by the defendants' defense counsel (at the time) who made numerous statements to the media and allowed the defendants to appear in the media on numerous occasions," part of prosecutors' response read. "The defendants should not be permitted to now assert that a change of venue is mandated due to such publicity."

In Voyles' filing, he claimed his client is unable to receive a fair trial in Marion County because of public hostility, public outrage, "prejudicial news reporting or editorializing that castigates her" and "speculative opinions about her personality and character."

Prosecutors responded that the motion "is merely a conclusion based on an assumption that jurors cannot be selected who will follow the law and their oath and decide this case based upon the evidence presented at trial rather than on pretrial publicity."

Shirley, her boyfriend, Mark Leonard, and his brother, Robert Leonard, were charged last month with two counts each of murder, one count each of conspiracy to commit arson, 33 counts each of arson, a Class B felony, and 12 counts each of arson, a Class A felony.

Prosecutors said the trio plotted to fill the couple's home with gas and ignite it using a microwave timer, killing neighbors John and Jennifer Longworth, leveling five homes and causing $4 million worth of damage in the neighborhood.

The death penalty will be under consideration in the case, prosecutors said.

Mark Leonard and Robert Leonard have been appointed public defenders.

No hearing date has been set for Monserrate Shirley's change of venue request.

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