ILNews

Brizzi disciplinary case poses 'actual prejudice' question

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi took the stand today, defending himself against attorney misconduct charges alleging that he violated professional conduct rules by public statements made on pending cases.

Testifying before Shelby Circuit Court Judge Charles O’Connor just a week after leaving the elected prosecutor’s office, Brizzi told the hearing officer that he didn’t believe he had done anything wrong in making statements about two high-profile murder cases after charges were filed in 2006 and 2008 and that the defendants in those cases received fair trials. But the Indiana Disciplinary Commission contends that Brizzi’s comments violated the rules and that his conduct years ago went against the administration of justice.

The commission filed a formal complaint against Brizzi Oct. 1, 2009, accusing him of making statements that went beyond the public information purpose and prejudiced the cases. The complaint contends that this conduct amounted to violations of Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.8(f) and Rule 3.6(a).

One of the allegations stems from an April 2008 news conference, when Brizzi made statements about accused multi-state serial killer Bruce Mendenhall. The second allegation involves a 2006 news release about the Indianapolis Hamilton Avenue slayings, where seven people were killed and Brizzi initially sought the death penalty. A comment in that news release stated about the defendants, "They weren't going to let anyone or anything get in the way of what they believed to be an easy score."

Arguing for the Disciplinary Commission, attorney David Hughes said those comments were prejudicial against the individuals. He insinuated that the motivation behind the statements was part of a larger message the prosecutor was sending at a time when Indianapolis was experiencing higher crime trends and, in 2006, when Brizzi faced a heated election race.

“In today’s media market, what a prosecutor says in public really matters, especially in a big market like Indianapolis,” Hughes said.

Attorney Matthew Symons, who works as a deputy prosecutor in Marion County and had previously served as Brizzi’s media relations manager and former 2006 campaign manager, was the only other person aside from Brizzi to testify. He spoke about the prosecutor’s office standards and practices in holding press conferences and communicating with the media.

On the stand, Brizzi furthered Symons’ explanation and said he strived as prosecutor to help explain what was happening in his office and with criminal proceedings in a way that the public could easily understand. He discussed how he found out about the Hamilton Avenue slayings when he was out of the state in 2006 and how he always worked to be mindful of due process and potential prejudice issues.

“It’s a delicate balance you have to strike,” he said in reference to a question from his attorney about how the conduct rules apply to prosecutor statements. “The public doesn’t know what we’re reviewing in the office, so we must tell them. I want to give out as much information as I can to the public, without interfering with a defendant’s right to a fair trial.”

Brizzi testified that he couldn’t recall the particular context behind the isolated comments that are alleged to be rule violations. In that they were both capital cases involving the death penalty, Brizzi said he wanted to make sure the general public understood why he was making such a “monumental decision” involving both defendants.

Hughes argued that the comments were prejudicial to the administration of justice as soon as they were spoken because actual prejudice of jurors shouldn’t be required as proof. He cited a comment from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy about how actual prejudice shouldn’t be required because then any “Disciplinary Commission is a fool’s errand.”

But the defense disagreed. Brizzi said that is not what he has always understood the rule to be and, if it was, this case would not have gotten to this stage.

“If it’s a strict ‘you said it’ test, then we’re done,” Brizzi said. “I said it, and admit that. But it’s not (the test), and I don’t think this was prejudicial to the trial and the evidence shows that. I do not believe I violated those rules.”

Both parties have until Feb. 25 to submit proposed findings, and then Judge O’Connor will issue a report before sending the case to the Indiana Supreme Court for review. The ultimate disciplinary decision and any sanction would be up to the five justices.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Okay
    So when do they investigate Brizzi for corrupt influence peddling to his cronies like Paul Page and Tm Durham?
  • Brizzi
    Everytime brizzi made a big bust he would brag to the media about what a tough prosecutor he was. Most of his big cases went south, especially ones he handled. But he never went to the media to apologize for prosecuting innocent people. And he didn't apologize for letting off friends and using his office for peresonal gain.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  2. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

  3. I am one of Steele's victims and was taken for $6,000. I want my money back due to him doing nothing for me. I filed for divorce after a 16 year marriage and lost everything. My kids, my home, cars, money, pension. Every attorney I have talked to is not willing to help me. What can I do? I was told i can file a civil suit but you have to have all of Steelers info that I don't have. Of someone can please help me or tell me what info I need would be great.

  4. It would appear that news breaking on Drudge from the Hoosier state (link below) ties back to this Hoosier story from the beginning of the recent police disrespect period .... MCBA president Cassandra Bentley McNair issued the statement on behalf of the association Dec. 1. The association said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. “The MCBA does not believe this was a just outcome to this process, and is disheartened that the system we as lawyers are intended to uphold failed the African-American community in such a way,” the association stated. “This situation is not just about the death of Michael Brown, but the thousands of other African-Americans who are disproportionately targeted and killed by police officers.” http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2016/07/18/hate-cops-sign-prompts-controversy/87242664/

  5. What form or who do I talk to about a d felony which I hear is classified as a 6 now? Who do I talk to. About to get my degree and I need this to go away it's been over 7 years if that helps.

ADVERTISEMENT