INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced this week that in 2019, his office took more murder cases to trial than ever before.
In court last year, the deputy prosecutors Mears shared with his predecessor Terry Curry prevailed 73% of the time, winning felony convictions in 36 cases.
“We didn’t win them all but we shouldn’t win them all,” Mears explained. “I want to make sure we take those tough cases to trial but I’m also proud of the number of dismissals we had. We only had two dismissals last year. Just five years ago we had 22 dismissals and so I think you see significant improvement in our office in terms of the number of trials that we’ve gone on murder cases, the results of those trials and then as well as the number of dismissals.”
Overall, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) filed nearly 30,000 cases last year, 17,000 of them misdemeanors, and presented 255 cases for jury trial with a 70% conviction rate.
Twenty percent of all cases that went for jury trial in the state of Indiana last year were in Marion County.
“The vast majority of persons we take to trial end up being convicted,” boasted Mears.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) clearance rate for homicides last year slumped to 54% from 65% in 2018.
Metro homicide detectives consider a case cleared if the killing is determined justified, accidental or in self-defense, the killer is dead or incarcerated on another charge or witnesses disappear or refuse to testify and the case will never get any better.
“Clearance rates move around and fluctuate over the years,” explained IMPD Chief Randal Taylor. “Sometimes we get great information in that same year that crime occurred and we’re able to clear it up right then, sometimes that information is slower coming, sometimes people aren’t willing to talk right away and over a period of time maybe they do and that can be over years and then you get that clearance later.”
Taylor already sent his top commanders to meet with Mears to determine what can be done to present stronger cases for prosecution.
Both MCPO and IMPD have been set back by the retirements of veteran lawyers and investigators meaning it’ll take time for their replacements to acquire the experience and savvy their predecessors possessed.
So far this year, the prosecutor has announced seven guilty verdicts or guilty pleas regarding the murders or homicides of six people…some of those cases going back to 2017.