ANDERSON, Ind. — Security was tightened several notches Friday morning at the Madison County Courthouse.
People walking through metal detectors at the entrances were given TSA-like instructions: place all metal objects, all electronic devices, belts and shoes in a bin for scanning.
Outside Courtroom 3, there were several armed police officers. There were several temporary signs posted warning that no electronic devices were even allowed inside the courtroom.
At times, access to elevators and the stairwell was closed briefly to allow for the secure entry and departure of Carl Roy Webb Boards II. Boards II was escorted by four fully-armed deputies of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. One of the deputies carrying a rifle.
The measures are because Boards II is accused of killing Elwood police officer Noah Shahnavaz in the early morning hours of July 31.
Friday’s court appearance was the first since Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings decided to pursue the death penalty for Boards II.
Judge Andrew Hopper talked Boards II through the count he faces at trial, which includes that if found guilty of murdering Shahnavaz, he could be put to death.
The case has garnered extraordinary attention. Not just because a police officer was killed, but also the brutality of killing. The police investigation suggests as Shahnavaz sat in his patrol car at the beginning of a traffic stop, someone fired dozens of shots through the door and windshield. The physical damage to the 26-year-old officer was so extensive, an accurate count of how many bullets hit him is not possible.
The funeral for Shahnavaz saw a huge turnout of police officers from inside and outside of Indiana. The event was carried live on a number of Indianapolis news outlets.
All of this attention raises questions about whether it will be difficult to find an unbiased jury. Would it be better to move the trail elsewhere? Attorney Ralph Winston Staples Jr. said not necessarily.
“It is a difficult row to hoe for the defense. It’s always important that all procedural boxes are checked, and a prosecutor should be concerned that there may be some flaw in terms of whatever verdict they secure. You want to take great care that your panel isn’t poisoned,” said Staples.
The Indianapolis defense attorney also warned that both the defense and prosecution teams in this case will likely say little, if anything, publicly.
“You can only get yourself in trouble if you say too much,” Staples explained.
Also likely to be limited is public access to some evidence at trial. Both defense and prosecution voiced agreement to ask that items like Shahnavaz’ autopsy and accompanying photos should not be made available to the public.
For now, a tentative trial date has been set for January 9.