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Bill To Give Attorney General Power To Prosecute Local Cases Advances In Senate

first_imgTheStateHouseFile.comINDIANAPOLIS—County prosecutors and defense attorneys were united Tuesday in opposition to legislation that would allow the attorney general’s office to pursue criminal cases that locals decline.In spite of overwhelming testimony against Senate Bill 436, the proposed legislation passed the Senate Corrections and Criminal Code Committee by a 6-3 vote. It now heads to the full Senate for action.Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, right, chairs the Corrections and Criminal Code Committee and authored the bill allowing the attorney general’s office to assume jurisdiction over local prosecutors in some cases. Photo by Victoria Ratliff, TheStatehouseFile.com.The amended version of the bill, authored by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, would allow the state’s attorney general to name a special prosecutor to pursue criminal cases when local prosecutors decide against filing charges.David Powell, a senior council of Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, was adamant in his opposition to the bill.“The one thing I can say without hesitation, having been involved for almost four decades in this business, is prosecutorial discussion is the holy grail,” Powell said, adding that it should be up to the local prosecutor to decide what to charge or not charge.Much of the discussion about the bill focused on the decision last year by Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears to not prosecute people arrested with small amounts of marijuana in their possession.David Powell of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council opposed legislation that would usurp the authority of local prosecutors. Photo by Victoria Ratliff, TheStatehouseFile.com.Michael Moore of Indiana Public Defender Council said that SB 436 overrides the voices of local voters who might have selected a prosecutor because he or she declined to prosecute certain low-level crimes. He noted that many times people of color or living in poverty are disproportionately affected by the prosecution of low-level crimes.Young said he began working on the bill after learning some prosecutors are failing to pursue some crimes.“What gives me concern is this growing trend throughout the country where prosecutors aren’t simply prosecuting crimes as a whole, as a policy,” Young said. Some examples he gave were damage to one’s property by rioting and stealing less than $900 from a business or person among other crimes.During the hearing, 15 people testified and only Parvonay Stover of the attorney general’s office wasn’t opposed to it. She said the attorney general is neutral on it.“That being said, if the General Assembly decides to move ahead with this concept, then we are ready and willing to help in whatever way we can,” Stover said. “But we think it’s merely a band aid to the underlying problem.” She did not elaborate.Katie Blair, director of Advocacy and Public Policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the legislation would undermine the power of voters to hold local prosecutors accountable for their actions.Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, said that she found the bill to be “amazingly wrong” and unconstitutional. She is a member of the committee and voted against the bill.“It’s going to be incredibly hard to determine what is an announced categorical refusal versus a practice that may be done quietly, and not be announced,” she said. “I think one of the things this bill will do is to encourage prosecutors to do something and not make it transparent.”FOOTNOTE: Lacey Watt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. By Lacey Watt FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

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