INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A FOX59 review of murder cases and convictions in Indianapolis this year shows there is an approximate 70% chance a killer will never serve prison time for his or her crime.
As of Oct. 31, IMPD detectives listed 43% of their cases cleared which includes crimes solved, referred to the Marion County Prosecutor for prosecution or exceptionally cleared in which the killer is identified but cannot be prosecuted due to death, incarceration, acquittal or lack of evidence to the satisfaction of prosecutors.
In late October, Prosecutor Terry Curry reported his office boasted a 74% success rate to conviction of any serious felony count related to prosecuted murder cases, which may or may not include the lead murder charge but also other gun, assault or drug charges related to the case.
Statistically, IMPD detectives consider four out of ten murders solved and prosecutors successfully imprisoned three out of four of those defendants. Meaning in Indianapolis, there is a 30% chance a killer will be convicted and sent to prison on any charge after a murder.
“Its unfortunate that criminals, no matter who they are, get away with crime when we know they did it but that’s just the way it works,” said IMPD Deputy Chief of Investigations Chris Bailey.
“We’re not afraid of a difficult case and when you do that, your numbers are not going to be perfect,” said Chief Deputy Prosecutor Ryan Mears. “Overall though, we think our numbers are very good and there are a number of individuals who are sitting in the Department of Correction who can attest to that.”
One of those is alleged hit man John Means.
Means was arrested for a pair of double murders, allegedly on behalf of the Grundy Crew, in early 2014.
After more than two years inside the Marion County Jail awaiting trial, Means was found not guilty of one case and saw charges dropped in the other.
It didn’t take long, though, for Means to return to jail.
He was arrested within days of his February release and charged with possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.
Means was recently found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison, but not before picking up another firearms case.
“If we’re successful of convicting him on the second offense, we will be looking at a sentence of anywhere from four to 24 years,” said Curry.
Richard Grundy III, himself targeted as the reputed leader of a murderous gang of drug dealers investigated by police in more than a dozen still-unsolved killings, once faced murder and drug conspiracy charges only to be released from jail after more than a year while awaiting trial and pleading guilty to a reduced marijuana count that resulted in no jail time.
Other members of the so-called Grundy Gang also saw cases dropped or accepted plea agreements and were sentenced to reduced charges.
As the city’s 2017 homicide total appears on track to match record tallies for the past couple years, detectives and prosecutors are facing more challenges than ever in solving cases.
Social media threats, victims killed while in the participation of their own crimes, frightened witnesses, intimidated family and friends unwilling to talk and juries conditioned by fictional media portrayals of criminal investigations and trials make it harder for veteran homicide detectives like Tom Lehn to bring a case that prosecutors can present in court.
“It has become more difficult to get people to cooperate,” said Lehn. “There used to be lines in the sand that weren’t crossed when children were hurt, teenagers were hurt or women were hurt or killed and that was something people were willing to talk about and these days you don’t get that at all. You have families of victims who will not cooperate with police because of their fear of retaliation for cooperating.”
One woman who agreed to speak to FOX59 only if her identity was protected said her son was murdered after he spoke to detectives about what he knew of a crime.
The teenager’s killing is still unsolved.
“If you don’t have witnesses that are good witnesses that are gonna tell the truth in the deposition and when they’re in court then you don’t have anything,” she said. “They can only do so much.”
As of Oct. 25, Curry’s office had resolved 85 murder cases this year going back as far as 2015.
Of the 13 not guilty verdicts to murder charges, three defendants were convicted of low level felonies or misdemeanors.
There have been eight dismissals which allow the prosecutor the option to refile the charges at a future date.
“In every single one of these cases there are families of the victims, there are families of the defendant, who are impacted by the fact that this crime has occurred and we give our best effort in every single case,” said Curry.
To boost arrests and prosecutions, IMPD will be bringing on a crime analyst to assist homicide detectives and four deputy prosecutors are on call to respond to murder scenes to assist in the opening hours and any murder investigation.