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After Years With No Death Penalty Trials, Central Indiana Could See Two

Prosecutors seeking death sentence in Southport cop's death, Lebanon burglary-murder.

INDIANAPOLIS - After four years without anyone being sentenced to death in Indiana, prosecutors have filed two capital cases in the last month.

Not every murder is eligible for the death penalty, and not every case which meets one of 18 qualifying factors gets filed. But Marion and Boone County prosecutors have requested death sentences in the murders of a Southport police officer and a Lebanon man killed during a burglary.

Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council executive director David Powell says only a couple of cases a year might be eligible for death sentences, and the creation of life without parole in 1993 gave prosecutors another option to take killers permanently off the streets. Death penalty cases are expensive to prosecute, and appeals can drag on for decades. And prosecutors sometimes follow the wishes of victims' families who don't want the death penalty. 

Some prosecutors follow the rule Powell says he used as Greene County prosecutor, reserving the penalty for cases which were not only beyond a reasonable doubt, but where there was no doubt at all about the defendant's guilt or the horror of the crime. 

And Powell says only one in 100 criminal cases of any kind goes to trial -- most defendants plead guilty. Powell says prosecutors don't file death sentence requests just for extra leverage, but notes having a potential death sentence in play gives defendants an added incentive to reach a deal.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has sought the death penalty three times in seven years, all against cop-killers -- he filed the third, against the accused killer of Southport officer Aaron Allan, two weeks ago.

Both prior defendants received life without parole after pleading guilty. Curry says one of those defendants had mental-health issues which would have complicated the possibility of the death penalty. The parents of the victim in the other case, Indianapolis officer David Moore, were both police officers themselves, and Curry says he heeded their wishes not to insist on a death sentence.

Curry declined in 2013 to seek a death sentence in the explosion which killed two people in Indy's Richmond Hill neighborhood.

He noted the plotters weren't targeting anyone specific, but just failed to think through the consequences of an insurance fraud scheme. Curry instead sought and got life without parole for ringleader Mark Leonard and Leonard's brother Bob.

(Photo: Brian A. Jackson/Thinkstock)

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