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Lawmakers demand changes following Dorsey sentencing

Lawmakers demand tougher reckless homicide penalties

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two state lawmakers with ties to law enforcement on Thursday said they have an obligation to ensure future sentences for killing police officers better fit the crime.

A jury in February convicted Eliahs Dorsey in the 2020 killing of IMPD Officer Breann Leath. Dorsey had faced murder charges, but the jury instead convicted him of reckless homicide and found him guilty but mentally ill. A judge early this month gave Dorsey a total of 25 years in prison for other charges but sentenced him to time served for Leath’s killing. The sentence was condemned by Leath’s family, law enforcement, and Mayor Joe Hogsett, a former federal prosecutor.

Reckless homicide is currently classified as a Level 5 felony under Indiana law, and thus carries a 1 to 6-year sentence. Reps. Mitch Gore and Victoria Garcia Wilburn, both Indianapolis-area Democrats, want a legislative summer study committee to look into reclassifying it as a Level 3 felony, which would carry a prison sentence of 3 to 16 years.

“I’ve had colleagues on both sides of the aisle recognize that they also felt that (Dorsey’s sentence) was an injustice,” Gore, an active law enforcement officer, said. “Specifically here in the legislature, they recognize that it’s not entirely on the judge or judges.”

Gore said classifying reckless homicide as a Level 3 felony would not only better fit the crime, but also give judges a broader range of sentencing options given the facts of a particular case.

Although study committees are not a requirement for potential legislation, Gore said having one look into the sentencing issue would give lawmakers more time to weigh the pros and cons of any proposals, and put together legislation more likely to address any concerns at the outset. Garcia Wilburn, who is married to a former IMPD officer and knew Leath personally, said lawmakers owe it to Leath’s family and to the law enforcement profession.

“I had vowed to my policing community that we would explore all options,” Garcia Wilburn said. “This seemed like the first place to start. I like to make sure that I understand the full picture before making a decision.”

Garcia Wilburn said since the 2025 session will be a budget year and thus have a longer calendar, that will give lawmakers more time to make sure they get any new laws right.

The Legislative Council, which is made up of top-ranking lawmakers from each chamber, is expected to announce study committee topics around the end of May. The next legislative session won’t begin until January.