Race, self-defense to play role in Tyler Newby murder trial stemming from 2020 Indianapolis riots

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INDIANAPOLIS — A jury has been selected to hear the trial of a Hendricks County man accused of killing a man just off Monument Circle during the 2020 spring riots in downtown Indianapolis.

Tyler Newby is accused of fatally wounding Dorian Murrell in the 100 block of East Market Street early in the morning of May 31, 2020, during the second night of rioting that rocked downtown in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd earlier in the month.

Newby told investigators he fired in self-defense after being pushed to the ground only to spot Murrell looming over him.

Murrell was unarmed at the time of the killing.

During jury selection this morning, both the defense and prosecution questioned potential jurors on their perceptions of the concept of self-defense, the role of the riots contributing to the atmosphere of unrest downtown and whether race can contribute to fear.

“I would be a fool if I didn’t think race doesn’t cause fear sometimes,” said one man.

“It can cause fear,” answered another.

The potential jurors were asked about their appropriate level of response if they were attacked and whether it mattered if they felt outnumbered or separated from family and friends.

Newby claimed he was surrounded by several people and was not aware of the immediate presence of his own friend when he fired the fatal shot.

Defense Attorney John Keiffner, a former deputy prosecutor, told jurors that once his client’s self-defense motive is raised in the trial, it is up to the State to disprove that argument.

More than one prospective juror indicated he or she would want to know what led up to the shooting, what the parties had been involved in, what was the motivation for attending the protests that became violent and what was the intention of the defendant in carrying a gun that night.

“At nightfall, things change,” said Keiffner who asked jurors what they would expect of the investigation conducted by IMPD homicide detectives.

As Keiffner asked jurors if they were interested in the backgrounds of the people involved, he seemed to be foreshadowing a defense strategy to inquire about the previous activities of Murrell and his friends, who have been named as witnesses in the case.

An IMPD investigation in to the killing of Chris Beaty almost three hours earlier in the area near Vermont and Pennsylvania Streets alleges that Murrell and his associates had been robbing, threatening and shooting people at that location.

The judge has yet to determine if the jury will hear about those previous alleged crimes.

When a juror speculated about the concept of fear on behalf of a person accused of firing in self-defense, Keiffner raised the concept of point of view, indicating that a potential strategy to put jurors in Newby’s shoes that night.

The defense also sought to allay questions about Newby’s presence during the riots while asking jurors if they ever felt themselves drawn to inquire about unusual circumstances in their own neighborhoods.

Last week the prosecutor added an additional charge of Voluntary Manslaughter along with the lead charge of Murder which could provide jurors with a lesser charge if they decide that self-defense played a role in the killing.

None of the jurors said they had heard anything about the Newby case before entering the courtroom this morning.

The trial is expected to last three days.

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