Jurors in the trial of accused Richmond Hill explosion mastermind Mark Ray Leonard will have a compounding factor to consider when deciding his guilt – allegations that he tried to hire a hitman to kill a key witness while already in jail.
Marion County Public Defender Diane Black, who is leading Leonard's defense in the case, threw the jury selection process for a loop Thursday when she told a pool of 56 potential jurors about the hit-for-hire charges.
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St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge John Marnocha ultimately decided the candidates were too prejudiced by the information to serve as jurors, and dismissed the whole pool.
Sixteen jurors were selected Friday after Marnocha instructed the defense not to bring up the allegations.
At some point during the trial, however, this is what jurors will hear:
Prosecutors allege Leonard asked a fellow inmate he believed to be a member of the Mars Hills Charity Riders – a motorcycle club on the south side of Indianapolis – to arrange for the death of a key witness in his trial.
Leonard was eventually put into contact with an undercover ATF officer posing as a hitman, who he promised to pay $15,000 and a motorcycle for the job.
Leonard allegedly told the undercover officer that the witness had been "blabbing like a [expletive]," and that his death was the key to him getting out of jail.
The undercover officer said Leonard drew him a map to the witness' home, and provided detailed instructions about how the murder should take place, including how the undercover officer should attempt to make it look like a suicide.
Before he killed the witness, the undercover officer was also to force him to call 911 and confess to trying to set up Leonard and alleged co-conspirator Monserrate Shirley for the explosion.
Leonard will face additional charges of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the alleged hit-for-hire attempt following his trial on murder charges from the explosion, set to begin Monday in St. Joseph County.
Below, read the full probable cause affidavit relating to Leonard's alleged hit-for-hire attempt.
RTV6 will be in the courtroom throughout the trial. Court rules do not allow live coverage of the proceedings, but we will post a daily blog wrap up at the end of each day.
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