ILNews

Prosecutor story was misleading

April 14, 2010
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Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

As a longstanding member of the Indianapolis Bar and reader of the Indiana Lawyer, I was surprised and very disappointed to see an article appearing in Indiana Lawyer daily (Mon., April 5, 2010) – "Prosecutor ordered lenient deal for business partner’s client" – suggesting that a sentence reduction provided to Guilford Forney was based not solely on the merits. The assertion is completely baseless and the article contains false statements and insinuations that could easily have been avoided had reporter Cory Schouten properly researched the story by calling me or other knowledgeable people to check the facts.

Specifically, the Indiana Lawyer falsely reported:

“Defense attorney Bruce D. Donaldson, of Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg LLP, last year persuaded Wyser to support a modification of the murder conviction justified by good behavior and an impressive educational track record while in prison. Forney was released on April 4, 2009, and is slated to serve two years on work release, followed by one year on probation.”

In fact, I did nothing to persuade Mr. Wyser or anyone else at the Prosecutor’s Office to support this sentence modification. To the contrary, this was solely the result of the family’s own efforts.

Specifically, Mr. Forney’s mother, Carlene Heeter, had a chance encounter with Carl Brizzi at a local restaurant and asked Mr. Brizzi if he would look into her son’s case. This led to a series of meetings and discussions within the prosecutor’s office that I was not invited to and took no part in, including at least one face-to-face meeting with Mr. Forney that I am aware of. Some time later Mrs. Heeter called me with the good news that the Prosecutor’s Office had decided to support a sentence modification request.

I had no involvement whatsoever in this entire process leading up to the prosecutor’s decision. I played no role in “persuading” the Prosecutor’s Office to support a sentence modification, and the story is false in stating otherwise. Rather, I have been friends of Mr. Forney’s family for nearly 10 years, and after the Prosecutor’s Office decided to support a sentence modification, Mrs. Heeter asked for my help documenting the agreement that had already been reached. I did so on a pro bono basis as a favor to the family, filing an appearance for Mr. Forney and appearing at the hearing before the judge to request approval of the sentence modification.

The insinuation that Prosecutor Brizzi was influenced by political contributions or his relationship with Barnes & Thornburg LLP is simply nonsense. Had this charge been made to me I could have disproven it easily. Specifically, nearly three years ago as a friend of Mr. Forney’s family I shared with Mr. Brizzi my personal views that Mr. Forney’s sentence was unduly harsh. My request went nowhere, and I was finally informed about a year later that the Prosecutor’s Office would not support a sentence modification. I had no further involvement with the Prosecutor’s Office on the matter until Mrs. Heeter contacted me with the good news that her own initiative with Prosecutor Brizzi had led to a favorable decision. Thus, it is beyond doubt that not only was my attempt at persuasion ineffective, but that Barnes & Thornburg’s supposed “relationship” with Mr. Brizzi was irrelevant to such decisions.

Thus, not only did the Indiana Lawyer get the facts wrong and mislead its readers, it made an unfounded and harmful insinuation about me and my law firm. Of course, in so doing, the Indiana Lawyer has also injured its own reputation and credibility as a fair and reliable source of information. In short, inaccurate and unfair reporting harms everyone.

Bruce D. Donaldson
Barnes & Thornburg
Indianapolis
 

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  1. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  2. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  3. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  4. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  5. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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