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Marion County prosecutor candidates face off

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The two candidates for Marion County prosecutor faced each other at their alma mater, Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, Sept. 29, in a debate sponsored by the Republican Law Coalition, the Democratic Law Society, and the Criminal Law Association of the law school.

The two answered questions from professor Andy Klein; students submitted the questions prior to the debate.

Other than their political parties, the two seemed more similar than different on their stances. Both candidates have also publicly denounced the current Marion County prosecutor, Carl Brizzi, and during the debate the men spoke about a loss of public confidence and trust in the office. Many question whether Brizzi’s personal business and even some professional dealings are at odds with his public responsibilities.
 

Mark Massa Massa

Mark Massa, the Republican candidate, was a part-time night student at the law school in the late 1980s and said he had wanted to be a prosecutor early on. He served as an intern in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office as a 3L, and has spent 13 of the last 20 years in a prosecutor’s office, including work as an assistant U.S. attorney. He also served as general counsel to Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has endorsed him for the office.


Terry Curry Curry

Terry Curry, the Democratic candidate, graduated from the law school in the late 1970s. Before law school, he served in the U.S. Army and worked for The Indianapolis News. Like Massa, Curry has worked in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. He also worked for the firm now known as Taft Stettinius & Hollister and as a sole practitioner.

Massa mentioned in his opening statement that because “we’re in the midst of a crisis in public confidence” in the prosecutor’s office, “like one we’ve never seen,” he said one of his priorities would be to address that.

He also mentioned the incident this summer that involved Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer David Bisard, whose blood alcohol test revealed him to be well above the legal limit when he hit and killed a motorcyclist, only to have those test results thrown out because the test was administered improperly. That has diminished the public’s confidence in the police department, which Massa said he would also address as prosecutor. This issue then leads to a less likely chance the public will cooperate with police or speak truthfully when they do interact with police; they may even refuse summons for jury duty because they don’t trust the police and/or the prosecutor’s office.

Curry echoed much of what Massa said about lower public confidence and that as prosecutor he also would address this issue. One thing that differentiated him from Massa, he said, is he was never elected to office nor has he received a political appointment.

“We need a clear break from political allegiances,” he said.

To restore public confidence, Curry said he would focus some of his energy on the deputy prosecutors who work with community organizations on what their needs are to have safer neighborhoods for residents.

He added this would allow for a greater exchange of information and more transparency between neighborhoods, police, and the prosecutor’s office. This would also be a way for the neighborhood organizations to learn about the successes they may not hear about in the news.

Massa said there are a series of steps he would take in the first 100 days after his election, which would include appointing experienced deputy prosecutors. He also mentioned he would work to implement an ethics plan that would allow no gifts to employees of the prosecutor’s office and would not allow employees to serve on boards of for-profit companies.

Beyond public confidence, both Massa and Curry said attacking violent crime in Marion County was a top priority.

Both mentioned there needs to be a greater use of grand jury investigations.

Massa also said there would be more efforts to go after recidivists, for the office to keep an eye on those who commit seemingly small crimes who could eventually commit violent crimes, and to keep an eye on gang activity.

Curry also said violent crime was one of his top priorities, including the issue of gangs in Marion County that came to light following the shooting at Black Expo this summer, which led to the arrest of a suspect who had claimed ties to a local gang.

He added the office should also pay attention to white-collar crime, because if not, there was a double standard.

Later in the debate, Curry also mentioned more attention could be paid to underreported crimes, such as domestic violence, relatively minor property crimes, and crimes against the Latino community, which has long distrusted the police.

When asked about the role of the office, both candidates said they saw the prosecutor as an administrator, but they would also try cases depending on their level of expertise on certain matters. Both men have had extensive trial experience on a variety of civil and criminal cases.

As far as who they’d like to have working in the office that has about 300 employees including 125 deputy prosecutors, Massa said he wanted to hire attorneys with a faithfulness to the mission of the office. “There needs to be camaraderie, and they need to feel inspired.”

Curry said he would actively recruit energetic young women and men who wanted to work in public service “with the knowledge they would not be making as much money” as their classmates who went into large firms or other legal jobs.

“When you’ve been doing this long enough, it’s easy to identify those who are excited about trying cases,” he said.

Because the audience was mostly made up of law students, both attorneys also encouraged them to consider careers in public service, whether in the prosecutor’s office or in the public defenders office.•

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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