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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. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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