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Hearing officer finds in Carl Brizzi's favor in disciplinary action

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A hearing officer recommends that disciplinary charges be dismissed against ex-Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, and now it’s up to the Indiana Supreme Court to consider the case.

Issuing a final report late June 28, Shelby Circuit Judge Charles O’Connor found in favor of the former prosecutor who faces professional conduct charges because of public statements he made years ago about two high-profile murder cases. The hearing officer heard testimony in early January and took the case under advisement for nearly six months before reaching a decision and issuing his report.

The commission filed a formal complaint against Brizzi in October 2009, accusing him of making statements that went beyond the public information purpose and prejudiced the pair of cases and amounted to violations of Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.8 and Rule 3.6. One issue came with an April 2008 news conference where Brizzi made statements about accused multi-state serial killer Bruce Mendenhall, and a second allegation involves a 2006 news release about the Hamilton Avenue slayings in Indianapolis, where seven people were killed and Brizzi initially sought the death penalty. A comment in that news release said the defendants “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 and insinuated the motivation behind the statements was part of a larger message the prosecutor was sending at a time when Indianapolis saw higher crime trends and, in 2006, he faced a heated election race.

That question is one that hasn’t been addressed in Indiana, and if answered it could have statewide impact for attorneys in talking publicly about their cases and what does or does not amount to misconduct.

Judge O’Connor wrote in his report that Brizzi’s statements were available through public record and fall under the safe harbor provision in Rule 3.6(b), and that pre-trial publicly didn’t affect the court’s ability to select unbiased jurors in the Hamilton Avenue slaying cases. The Disciplinary Commission failed to introduce clear and convincing evidence that Brizzi knew or should have known the statements made would have substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing any proceedings, the judge’s report says.

Disciplinary Commission Executive Secretary G. Michael Witte said his office is reviewing the report and has 30 days to file a petition for review with the state Supreme Court.

The justices have final say in the case and what, if any, misconduct might have occurred and any sanctions that might be necessary. The court doesn’t have any timeline on that decision once the parties submit all their briefs.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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