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Supreme Court denies transfer to Richmond Hill defendant

January 22, 2018

One of the masterminds of the deadly 2012 Richmond Hill home explosion will not appear before the Indiana Supreme Court again after the five justices unanimously denied transfer to his challenge of one of his numerous felony convictions.

The justices denied transfer to the case of Mark Leonard v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1703-CR-443, last week, letting stand an October Court of Appeals decision to upheld Leonard’s conspiracy to commit murder conviction.  Leonard and his brother, Bob, were convicted on a slew of charges after they caused a natural gas explosion at the home of Monserrate Shirley, Leonard’s girlfriend.

The explosion damaged or destroyed dozens of homes in the Richmond Hill neighborhood on Indianapolis’ southside and killed Jennifer and Dion Longworth, Shirley’s neighbors. Among the charges filed against the brothers was a charge of Class A felony conspiracy to commit the murder of Mark Duckworth, a longtime friend who provided information about the brothers’ plan to law enforcement.

While in jail, Leonard spoke to a police informant and undercover special agent on the phone about a murder-for-hire plot to take Duckworth down. Those phone calls were admitted into evidence, and the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld their admission and the conspiracy conviction in October.

Both brothers are currently serving life without parole sentences for their roles in the Longworths’ deaths, with the high court affirming Mark Leonard’s LWOP sentence in May and Bob’s in August.

The Supreme Court also granted transfer to three cases last week, including Jacob O. Robinson v. State of Indiana, 18S-CR-33. In that case, Robinson pleaded guilty to Class D felony attempted residential entry after breaking a stranger’s door knob while fleeing police.

Robinson also pleaded guilty to being a habitual substance offender under the attempted residential entry cause and under a different cause unrelated to a substance abuse offense. The prosecutor noted a habitual offender enhancement – rather than a habitual substance offender enhancement – would be more appropriate considering Robinson had not pleaded guilty to a substance abuse offense, but the trial court declined to address the issue.

The appellate court, however, concluded sua sponte that Robinson’s sentence and plea agreement should be vacated because the habitual substance offender enhancement was illegal and contrary to the existing habitual offender statute in place at that time. The court remanded the case with instructions to enter a new plea agreement, or for further proceedings.

Finally, in two opinions handed down last week, the Supreme Court granted transfer to L.G. v. S.L., et al., 18S-AD-32, and to Jessica R. McCain v. State of Indiana, 18S-CR-26.

The high court denied transfer to 21 other cases last week. The full list of transfer actions can be viewed here.

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