INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The three suspects accused of setting last year's deadly house explosion in the Richmond Hill subdivision appeared in court Wednesday, pushing several new legal maneuvers in the case against them.
Defense attorneys for Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard, Jr. previously filed motions asking Judge Sheila Carlisle to throw out the prosecution's request for life without the possibility of parole sentences.
Dion and Jennifer Longworth, who lived next door, were killed in the blast. At least 33 homes were destroyed and dozens of others were damaged.
PHOTOS | Southside explosion
On Wednesday, attorneys for the three suspects argued that amended charges of "knowing" murder used to justify the seeking of any life without parole or death penalty case were not applicable in their case. Aggravating factors that must be present to seek the life without parole sentences were not present, they argued.
Prosecutors countered, by saying that those factors include setting an explosion that would likely result in death and causing the death of multiple people.
"Their primary argument hinges on the fact that initially the state had just filed two counts of felony murder, alleging the killing during the course of the arson, so to speak," said Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson. "The state later added the knowing murder counts. And, we believe with respect to the life without parole, that takes care of that issue."
The jury could still convict on a lesser charge of felony murder, Robinson said, which would automatically eliminate the possibility of life without parole being imposed.
Defense attorneys also argue in their filings that life without the possibility of parole sentences are unconstitutional, and that such a filing is not support by Indiana law.
"That argument has been made time and time again for years in Indiana. And, the Indiana Supreme Court has always rejected that argument," Robinson said.
Judge Carlisle asked both sides to waive requirements that she issue a ruling on the life without parole requests within 30-days. No date for a final ruling on the issue was set.
Defense attorneys for Mark Leonard and Shirley also again told the judge that they intend to file motions to "sever" the cases, asking that each defendant be tried separately.
Shirley's attorney, James Voyles, wouldn't speculate on the issue as he hurried out of the courtroom.
"Whatever issues there are for severance will be spelled out in our motions when we file them with the court," he said.
Robinson, again, said she would oppose such a motion if it is filed.
"They haven't filed anything yet. And, until they file something and I see what they filed, I can't respond to it. But, the defendants acted together. They committed the crime together. And, therefore they should be tried together," she said.
Defense motions for change of venue filed in April were not addressed Wednesday, and Robinson said she expected it would take some time for a ruling to be issued on them.
Additional motions filed earlier, including a request for all phone calls and wiretaps performed on Shirley while she's been incarcerated in the Marion County Jail, and a belated alibi motion alleging that Mark Leonard was at a casino at the time of the explosion, have also been taken under advisement by the judge.
A request by Mark Leonard's attorney, Deanna Martin, to ban television news cameras from capturing video of Leonard on his way to court from the jail was previously denied.
Judge Carlisle set a new pre-trial hearing date for August 14, where she instructed both sides to make a good faith effort to complete the sharing of evidence and interview information with each other in a process known as discovery.
Defense attorneys said it is likely that additional depositions of witnesses will be taken, though none could provide the judge with a specific list of who they intend to speak with.
A trial date was previously set for June of 2014.
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