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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. Hello currently just withdrew from laporte county drug court and now I have lost the woman I love which also was in drugcourt and was put in jail without a,lawyer presentfor her own safety according to the judge and they told her she could have a hearing in two weeks and now going on 30days and still in jail no court date and her public defender talks like he,s bout to just sell her up the river.

  2. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  3. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  4. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  5. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

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