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INDIANAPOLIS — Recent history shows securing a death sentence for suspects accused of killing police officers in Indiana has been extremely difficult.

Over the last 10 years in Indiana, 11 law enforcement officers were shot and killed in the line duty.

IMPD officer Breann Leath

Six of those cases resulted in death penalty being sought, but so far none has resulted in a capital conviction.

Gunshots fired into a hallway of an apartment building on Indy’s east side in April 2020 claimed the life of IMPD officer Breann Leath.

Marion County prosecutors are seeking a death sentence for the accused killer Elliahs Dorsey. 

That case is still pending, as is the newly filed death penalty case against Carl Boards II for the murder of Elwood officer Noah Shahnavez.

“You can have all kinds of opinions, but until the stark reality of a defendant facing capital punishment is dumped in your lap, you have no idea how it feels,” said attorney Ralph Staples.

Elwood officer Noah Shahnavez

As a former prosecutor, attorney Ralph Staples was involved in seven death penalty cases, which he says are always expensive to pursue.

“You’ve got to move a lot of money to finance a capital murder prosecution,” said Staples.

In recent years, the death penalty was initially sought but later dropped for the convicted killers of Boone County deputy Jacob Pickett, Southport Lt. Aaron Allan, IMPD officer Perry Renn and Gary police officer Jeffrey Westerfield.

Three of the accused killers pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty, the fourth was convicted following a bench trial after the death penalty was removed as an option.

Federal prosecutors did not seek the death penalty following the murder of Terre Haute detective Greg Ferency.

Four suspects involved the deaths of IMPD officer Rod Bradway, Howard County deputy Carl Koontz, Terre Haute officer Rob Pitts and Merrillville  officer Nickolaus Schultz avoided charges by being killed during the crimes.

The bottom line is, Staples says seeking the death penalty always involves a grueling trial and appeals process.

“Even as a prosecutor it affects you personally and professionally,” said Staples.  “It’s one of those things that only experience helps you learn.”

The last execution carried out for any criminal case in the state of Indiana took place back in December 2009.