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Stafford: In judges shooting, time to investigate the investigation

June 12, 2019

editor-perspective-stafford.jpgWhen a man who police believe shot two judges in downtown Indianapolis walked free after the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office declined to charge him, everyone involved had to know the decisive inaction would combust into smoldering rumors and speculation.

If they didn’t know that, they don’t know human nature.

By the will of grace and modern medicine, Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs of Clark County survived the shooting and are recuperating back home. But at Indiana Lawyer deadline, they had not resumed their duties on the bench, nor had either jurist from “the sunny side of Louisville” said a public word about what happened before police responded to calls of shots fired after 3 a.m. May 1 outside a White Castle restaurant.

Adams and Jacobs were in town for a judicial conference. A rattled state judiciary did all it could to quell rumors circulating among hundreds of convened judicial officers and keep them informed as the judges’ conditions — initially critical in Jacobs’ case — improved. It appeared Adams and Jacobs were not targeted because they were judges, the administration of the Indiana Supreme Court said in press releases that no longer appear online. Police said the shooting capped a night of bar hopping before the start of the judicial conference. Details, to put it kindly, are fuzzy.

We breathed a little easier days later when police announced they arrested the man and his accomplice who they believed carried out the shootings. We shook our heads when the purported gunman walked the next Friday.

We have so many questions that the space of this column cannot contain them. The questions fester as a shroud of silence surrounds this case. Why is that? Surely Adams and Jacobs must want their attempted killer brought to justice. Certainly as officers of the court they honor a heightened duty here to see to it that the facts surrounding this case are found. They have the vaunted “integrity of the judiciary” to uphold and protect, after all.

Why has Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said nothing about his decision not to charge Brandon Kaiser, who had been arrested and booked on a preliminary charge of attempted murder and other counts, and who police insist shot both judges? Why, indeed, did Curry so choose? And if Kaiser is no longer a suspect, why won’t Curry say so? Is Curry feeling pressure from … somewhere? And, bizarrely, why did a statement from Curry’s office almost a month after the shooting refer to the incident as “… the shooting which is believed to have occurred May 1 …”?

Why have authorities only released surveillance video from the incident that shows virtually nothing? In the video that’s been made public, we see the judges bathed in streetlight on the sidewalk with another judicial officer. We see a vehicle arrive, and two men — police say Kaiser and his nephew, Alfredo Vazquez — arrive. Kaiser and Vazquez get out and take a few steps in the judges’ direction. Then the video ends. The two groups are many yards apart, and there is no indication of confrontation.

Why not show the public what actually happened up until the point a shot was fired? Are we unable to believe our lying eyes? Given the location of the shooting, it’s a fair bet the number of cameras would rival that of NFL Films.

Hoosier author John Pesta’s fine novel concerning hidden judicial misdeeds is called “Safely Buried.” This keeps coming to mind for some reason. But the unbelievable facts of this case, and the facts that we still do not know, seem stranger even than Pesta’s fiction.

More than one lawyer has suggested that if this case, with these facts, involved ordinary people outside a restaurant a few miles east, charges against the alleged gunman never would be dropped. That’s speculation, sure, but who can disagree?

Perhaps the biggest question now is, who, if anyone, will look into all these questions? It’s time for a formal, official inquest. Which raises yet another question: Who would do that? Indiana State Police? The Attorney General’s Office? The Commission on Judicial Qualifications? The FBI? Or no one?

Because even if the case of State v. Brandon Kaiser is never filed, the questions will survive in perpetuity, taking on lives of their own, as we each answer the questions for ourselves with the only thing we have to go on: speculation.•

Dave Stafford — dstafford@ibj.com — is editor of Indiana Lawyer. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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