IndyBar: Indianapolis Bar Association Responds to Criticism of the Marion County Criminal Courts

The Indianapolis Bar Association has learned of recent public statements made by the president of the Fraternal Order of Police #86, Rick Snyder, regarding Marion County’s criminal justice system. These statements include specific references to the criminal history of Carl Roy Webb Boards II, the Defendant charged with the murder of Elwood Police Officer Noah Shahnavaz. Officer Shahnavaz’s death is incredibly tragic and analyzing the root causes of this tragedy is critical in safeguarding our public safety officers. However, Mr. Snyder’s inaccurate hyperbole in this matter attacking the judiciary in this false and unfounded manner is simply counterproductive to that goal. Specifically, with regard to one of the Defendant’s prior Marion County convictions, Mr. Snyder has alleged that the Defendant “was released following a lenient modified sentence from a Marion County judge” in a recent press release. During a television interview, Mr. Snyder further alleged that a Marion County judge “gave that convicted violent offender a modified lenient sentence, and as a result, he was back out on our streets … .”

The clear inference Mr. Snyder wishes the public to make from these statements is that — but for a “Marion County judge” — Officer Shahnavaz would be alive. Unfortunately, those statements are factually incorrect, and the resulting inferences are dangerous. Because Mr. Snyder’s claims regarding the Defendant’s sentence in Marion County are false, it is incumbent upon our organization to correct the record.

The public record in the case Mr. Snyder references reveals that the sentence the Defendant received from the court was neither lenient nor modified. With respect to leniency, the Defendant received an enhanced 25-year sentence following his conviction after his jury trial. The sentence imposed was near the maximum permitted by Indiana law, and the Defendant did not receive a modified sentence. In fact, the court specifically informed the Defendant that it would not grant his repeated request for a sentencing modification. These facts stand in direct contrast to the irresponsible statements of Mr. Snyder. Either Mr. Snyder reviewed the record and is aware of these facts (and consciously disregarded them), or he chose not to review the record and has recklessly made false allegations in a matter of serious public import. Either alternative is beneath the expected standards for our community’s conversation and discourse about public safety.

In the Defendant’s matter, in April of 2019, consistent with the policies of the Indiana Department of Correction for offenders nearing the completion of sentences of incarceration, the Defendant was screened by both the Indiana Department of Correction and Marion County Community Corrections for the Indiana Community Transition Program (“CTP”). CTP is a reentry program that is operated by the Indiana Department of Correction and various county level Community Corrections agencies that is, per the Indiana Department of Correction, designed “to facilitate the successful reintegration of offenders returning to the community.” In the Defendant’s case, Community Corrections recommended that he be accepted into the CTP, and the court approved that request based on such recommendation.

Despite the inference of Mr. Snyder’s statements, placement in CTP did not shorten the Defendant’s sentence. It simply permitted him to finish the required sentence on home detention, and not as an inmate of the Department of Correction. To be clear, even absent placement in CTP, the Defendant still would have been free from supervision in July of 2022, because he would have served his entire sentence by that point. To reiterate this point, the following are a few key dates pulled from the record on the proceedings of the Defendant’s case: (i) the Defendant entered CTP in May of 2019; (ii) the Defendant’s original scheduled release date under the sentence (had CTP not been granted) would have been in August of 2019; (iii) the Defendant began his post-sentence parole period in August of 2019 (after completing CTP); and (iv) the Defendant completed his post-sentence parole period in August of 2020. The record shows the tragic events of July 31, 2022, occurred nearly two years after the Defendant’s release from his post-sentence parole period, clearly refuting Mr. Snyder’s false statement that the Defendant’s sentence and ultimate release from a prior conviction was in any way connected to the Defendant’s behavior on July 31, 2022.

Mr. Snyder’s attempt to draw a line between Officer Shahnavaz’s tragic death and the Defendant’s Marion County conviction is not only inaccurate, it is dangerous. It would lead an uninformed person to conclude that the court in this matter somehow exhibited leniency that resulted in the death of a law enforcement officer. Our community does not benefit from such reckless rhetoric.

IndyBar is making this statement in response to Mr. Snyder’s inaccurate allegations because, left unrebutted, many may assume they are true.

Our Constitution provides individuals with the right to free speech, and we encourage constructive conversation among members of the community regarding the judicial system to bring greater understanding to these issues and to build upon the important work being done each day in our criminal justice system. It is equally important to note that our judges have an obligation to refrain from participating in that discourse when doing so might undermine and jeopardize the rights of individual litigants. Indiana judges are required by the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.2 to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” Judges and their court staff are prohibited from making any public statements that “might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court or, make any nonpublic statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.”

Given our judiciary’s inability to meaningfully respond to Mr. Snyder’s proclamations, IndyBar has an obligation to do so. Public safety, and justice, is paramount to our members and the larger community. Unlike Mr. Snyder, we are bound by ethical rules that prohibit us from offering false narratives in the public sphere. Constructive, and accurate, criticism is a fundamental component to ensuring that our judicial process works effectively for all in our community. At IndyBar we provide a positive forum for respectful discourse and education regarding the judicial process, but in instances where an unaccountable individual makes damaging claims that are demonstrably false, we have a collective duty to attempt to correct the record. Doing so is fundamentally important as we work together to ensure that justice is done in a fair and consistent manner in the Indianapolis community.

Note: No judicial officers who are members of the Indianapolis Bar Association participated in discussions related to the creation of this statement, nor did they participate in its drafting.•

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