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Judge refuses inmate's request for execution

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A northern Indiana judge has turned down the request of a murder convict who asked to be executed even though he wasn't sentenced to death.

LaPorte Circuit Judge Thomas Alevizos ruled Monday that Walter Leach has not exhausted his alternatives in seeking an execution from the Indiana Department of Correction and that the court has no legal power to grant the request. Due to that, Alevizos said, there was no way for the case to proceed.

"Even if an exhaustion had been shown, there is no common law or statutory authority for a court to grant the requested remedy," Alevizos wrote in his brief order.

Leach, who doesn't have an attorney and is representing himself, was denied even a court hearing on his request. He is an inmate at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, where executions are carried out in the state.

Leach claimed to have sent copies of his request to the Department of Correction, the governor's office and the Indiana attorney general's office, but none of the agencies said they could find any such formal request.

Leach, 63, didn't say why he was requesting a lethal injection in the petition he filed Aug. 20 in LaPorte Circuit Court. Leach is serving a 95-year sentence for a 1995 fatal shooting outside an Elkhart County bar. His earliest possible release date is in 2045, when he would be 93 years old, according to the Department of Correction website.

The department said Leach could not be made available for an interview Wednesday.

Witnesses testified during Leach's trial that they saw him staring angrily at Howard VanZant and threatening him inside Duke's Bar in Nappanee on July 4, 1995, the Elkhart Truth reported. VanZant was shot in the head as he exited the bar, and witnesses described seeing Leach in a "pistol stance" pointing at VanZant.

Leach was sentenced to the maximum of 65 years for the murder, with an added 30 years for being a habitual offender.

Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart, an expert on the history of capital punishment in Indiana, said Wednesday that Leach's request was unusual but not unprecedented.

Robert Smith was serving a 38-year sentence for battery at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in 1995 when he fatally stabbed a fellow inmate who had been convicted of killing a toddler, Stewart said. Smith pleaded guilty to murder on the condition that he would be given the death penalty. He was sentenced to death and was executed in 1998.

Stewart said that many people who are arrested for murder ask for the death penalty but later change their minds.

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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