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Death Sentence in Killing of IMPD Officer Would Be Marion County's First in 12 Years

Ultimate penalty has been imposed in Indiana just six times since 2005

If the accused killer of Indy Metro Police Officer Perry Renn is sentenced to death, it'll be the first death sentence handed down in Marion County in 12 years.

Major Davis is the eighth accused killer to face a potential death sentence in Marion County since 2002, but none of the others have received it. In several of those cases, prosecutors reached plea bargains for life without parole. IUPUI McKinney School of Law Professor Joel Schumm says that sentence has become an increasingly popular alternative nationally for juries as well as prosecutors.

In smaller counties, Schumm says the expense of a death penalty trial has dissuaded some prosecutors from seeking it. Indiana prosecutors have sought the death penalty 21 times in the last nine years. More than half those cases ended in plea deals for lesser sentences.

But when cases do make it to trial, Hoosier juries have been very willing to hand down a death sentence. Since 2005, 10 capital cases have either gone to a jury or produced a guilty plea without an agreement for a reduced sentence. Eight of those 10 resulted in death sentences, although one of the eight was overturned on appeal and replaced with a sentence of life without parole.

Schumm notes Indiana law requires particularly troubling circumstances, such as multiple murders or the killing of a police officer, to make a murder eligible for the death penalty in the first place. And he says prosecutors often won't bring a death penalty request to trial unless they're confident they have the evidence to persuade a jury to impose it.

No one has been sentenced to death in Marion County since Benjamin Ritchie's conviction in the 2000 murder of Beech Grove police officer William Toney. Ritchie is one of 13 people on Indiana's death row. A 14th, Debra Brown, has a pending death sentence in Indiana but is in prison in Ohio.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has sought death sentences three times since taking office in 2011. A plea bargain in one of those cases resulted in a life sentence. The other two, Davis and accused quadruple murderer Kenneth Rackemann, were filed this year and are awaiting trial.

Indiana has not carried out an execution since Evansville triple murderer Matthew Wrinkles was put to death in 2009.

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