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Judge: Suspect in IMPD officer death can face death penalty

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Prosecutors will be allowed to pursue the death penalty for the man accused of killing an Indianapolis police officer, a Marion County judge has decided.

Officer Breann Leath, of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, was shot and killed on April 9, 2020, while responding to a call at an apartment complex in the 1800 block of Edinburge Square on Indy’s east side.

Elliahs Dorsey, 28, of Indianapolis, is charged with murder, battery, criminal confinement, and four counts of attempted murder. A jury trial is set for September.

A judge on Friday denied a request by Dorsey’s lawyers to take the death penalty off the table in the case. Dorsey’s attorneys had argued that he did now know Leath was a police officer when he fired shots.

In his ruling, Judge Mark D. Stoner wrote:

“In reviewing the exhibits, the Court does find there is some evidence, particularly within the unsworn statement of Aisha Brown given to IMPD investigators, that the State could argue to a jury that the Defendant had actual knowledge. The evidence must be entered as substantive evidence against the Defendant, and the jury would have to determine what value to give it.”

Friday’s decision came less than two months after Stone was asked to recuse himself from the case.

In March, the Marion County prosecutor accused the judge of showing bias and prejudice that would “prevent a just resolution in the case” and argued that the death penalty decision was one to be made by a jury, not the judge before evidence is presented at trial.

Stoner declined to drop the case, writing in his ruling:

“1. A disagreement over whether court has power to hold a hearing to address a motion raised by the Defense is not grounds for recusal. Nor is the State’s fear that the Court may grant a motion adverse to the State’s position grounds for recusal. These are disagreements on legal issues and not evidence of bias or prejudice.

“2. The State has incorrectly asserted that the Court at the March 17, 2023, hearing, sua sponte raised ethical issues against the State under Indiana Rules of Professional Responsibility 3.8. The Defendant raised this issue in its pleading #75 on March 15, 2023. As with any issue raised by either side, the Court has a duty to have the parties address the issue, particularly if the issue is an ethical one. Contrary to the State’s position, the Court cannot ignore the issue.

“3. The State is incorrect when it says it cannot proceed because of the ethical issues raised. First, the Court did not put the State in this position. The State has a duty  to comply with the Rules of Professional Responsibility at all times. Second, if the Court ultimately rules against the State on the legal and ethical issues raised by the Defense, and the State believes the Court is wrong on the facts or the law, the State is free to appeal the Court’s ruling. The Court again emphasizes that it has not reviewed the exhibits and caselaw submitted by the parties on the issues raised, and a recusal motion, made in anticipation of an adverse ruling, is inappropriate.”

Judge Mark D. Stoner, Marion Superior Court 32

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