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Marion County prosecutor discusses his first days in office

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To lead any large law firm, a managing partner needs a diverse set of skills. He needs to understand budgets, crisis management, personnel issues, and how to interact with the media.

It’s essentially the same for the prosecutor of Indiana’s largest county.

During his first days in office, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, who was sworn into office at midnight on Jan. 1, has faced some unique and sensitive issues.

On Jan. 2, a deputy prosecutor was arrested on charges of battery with injury and criminal trespass. She was later fired.

On Jan. 12, Curry re-filed charges in a high-profile case involving Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer David Bisard. According to the re-filed charges, Bisard’s blood alcohol content was at least .15 percent when his police car hit a group of motorcyclists, killing one and injuring two others.

Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi did not include the alcohol-related charges in his filing because he said the blood draw was not done according to IMPD procedures because the facility that did the blood draw was not certified.
 

curry-terryw-15col Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, a former deputy prosecutor and former defense attorney, took office at midnight Jan. 1. He started his transition to the prosecutor’s office immediately following his victory in the Nov. 2, 2010, election. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Curry told Indiana Lawyer the facility did have a written protocol prepared by a physician for blood draws, which is one requirement for them to be considered valid. He also conferred with deputy prosecutors to learn more about the circumstances of the blood draw, and found there was a valid argument to be made to include those results in the charges.

Curry and his opponent in the race for prosecutor, Mark Massa, each said if elected they would re-file the charges to include the alcohol-related charges.

On Jan. 27, Curry filed charges against a man accused of shooting IMPD Officer David Moore, 29, during a traffic stop Jan. 23. Moore died Jan. 26. Moore’s funeral has been one of the toughest things Curry has had to face in his term so far.

“It was exceedingly emotional,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about Jo and Spencer Moore and the dignity they showed given the circumstances that, at least to me, are incomprehensible.”

Curry explained that the prosecutor’s office has been forthcoming with the media about these and other cases it is handling as part of his effort to make the office more transparent and restore confidence.

“The single biggest challenge for the new prosecutor of this office, whether I or my opponent Mark Massa would have won the election, is restoring trust and confidence in this office,” he said. “Part of that is to make sure the public knows what our office does, including our successes, on a daily basis.”

Curry began work with his transition team as soon as he was elected Nov. 2. He worked with attorneys and former members of the office to interview every employee in the office.

Curry’s previous professional experience includes time spent in the prosecutor’s office from 1982 to 1984 and again from 1989 to 1992. He worked for Sommer Barnard, now Taft Stettinius & Hollister from 1978 to 1982, 1984 to 1989, and from 2002 to 2005. He also worked for Butler Schembs Curry & Jones from 1992 to 2002. After he left private practice in 2005, he went to work as a mediator for Van Winkle Baten & Rimstidt Dispute Resolution.

Today, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office employs 175 attorneys and 190 professional staff, according to Lara Beck, the office’s interim public information officer. If the prosecutor’s office was a private firm, it would rank as the fourth largest law firm in the city of Indianapolis.

The transition team also considered the best ways to budget for the office, what practice areas within the office could be beefed up or pared down, and Curry participated in an orientation by the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council with about 30 other new county prosecutors from around the state.

Linda Pence of Pence Hensel, a former colleague of Curry’s, worked with him on his transition. Pence is also representing the Wells family, victims in the Bisard case.

“First of all, we all know for our community that it is a very significant position,” Pence said. “The prosecutor has enormous powers and authority, so we want someone who’s competent, thoughtful, and has good judgment. I was thrilled when he was elected because he has those characteristics.”

Pence said Curry didn’t waste any time getting started.

“He wanted to hit the ground running,” she said. “When he was sworn in, he already had a game plan, which was very impressive. In all the meetings, he knew where he would go, how to improve, how to reorganize. He wasn’t just meeting people, he had a game plan.”

Steve Johnson, IPAC executive director, said he was not surprised that Curry evaluated the staff who worked for his predecessor.

“For the larger counties, when there’s a shift in political parties and when a new prosecutor isn’t moving into the job directly from a chief deputy prosecutor position, the new prosecutor will have to evaluate all of their staff. This is especially true in a large office where you want to have confidence in your supervisors. In some counties where there are only two or three people in the prosecutor’s office, it’s different. But in Marion County, while Terry could oversee some cases, he can’t supervise everything that’s going on.”

Curry said he and the transition team spent time considering how to best use the human resources they have. Among his focuses are the major felony unit, white collar crimes, and political corruption. He also intends to beef up the Community Prosecution Division, providing more interaction with neighborhood associations, faith-based groups, and the police who regularly interact with residents.

Because he had trial experience prior to taking office, Curry said he plans to actively work on some cases. But he also said as prosecutor it’s his job to be hands on with other cases, and he will be a sounding board for the deputy prosecutors who have questions concerning cases they are handling.

While fielding candidates for open positions, Curry said he noticed many applicants were highly qualified, likely due to the tough job market. He said he had a stack of resumes many inches high, and he got his first call asking for a job the morning after he was elected.

Early in the transition, Curry reached out to leaders at IMPD and in the sheriff’s office, as well as state police, the secretary of state’s office, the U.S. attorney, and federal investigative agencies to foster a better working relationship.

“In the first 30 days there were a lot of high-profile things going on, but that’s not unusual,” Pence said. “When you walk into a prosecutor’s office like this one, you shouldn’t be surprised. As you can tell, he has a very calm demeanor and sound judgment. In all of those situations, he went in and analyzed them, no emotion; he considered what does the law say, what are the facts. … When you have that training, you just know how to handle it.”•

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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