Richmond Hill trial venue change will bring hefty price tag

Mark Leonard

The Richmond Hill explosion caused millions of dollars in damage and prosecuting those charged in the case is going to be expensive, too.

While changing the venue of Mark Leonard's trial in the November 2012 blast may give him a better chance at a fair trial, it's going to cost prosecutors hundreds of thousands of dollars more to try the case.

"Clearly, it has to be one of the most complex, if not the most complex trial in our memory involving just the witnesses and the physical evidence that's going to be necessary," said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.

Early estimates put the cost at about 10 times the cost of prosecuting former IMPD Officer David Bisard. The prosecutor's office spent $70,000 proving that Bisard was drunk on duty when he hit three people in his squad car, killing one and seriously injuring the other two.

This Mark Leonard trial will likely be longer, lasting 6-8 weeks.

A team of four deputy prosecutors will have to stay in South Bend during that time, along with office support staff. The witness list is 200 people long and the prosecutor's office has to transport them to the courtroom.

Then, there is the evidence.

"In addition to the paper items, we are talking about physical exhibits, as well, from the explosion itself and the debris and what remained after the explosion occurred," Curry said.

There is so much evidence, Curry's office has looked into hiring a semi to transport it all to South Bend. It has time to figure out the logistics, however, as a trial date can't be set until St. Joseph County judges decide which one of them will take the case.

Curry says that he anticipates trials for the other two defendants in the case - Bob Leonard and Monserrate Shirley - will also take place outside of Marion County. That means prosecutors would have to do all of this over again and incur the same costs at least two more times.