Judge orders Mark Leonard released from steel cell

Mark Leonard

A St. Joseph County judge says Mark Leonard, who was recently convicted of murder in the Richmond Hill explosion, should be held in a regular jail cell instead of a steel or padded cell that is often used for inmates on suicide watch. The judge issued his order after Leonard's attorneys complained that he was being held in "barbaric and inhumane" conditions.

Wednesday afternoon, officials at the St. Joseph County Jail released a statement stating they had "responded" to the judge's order, but did not elaborate on what that meant. The written comments said, "Due to inmate privacy concerns, we will not be commenting on the specifics of Mr. Leonard's situation."

The written statement from St. Joseph County Police Department also noted Leonard had been placed on suicide watch while in their custody.

Before the verdict in the Richmond Hill trial was announced, Leonard was held in a segregation cell at the St. Joseph County Jail. Judge John Marnocha's ruling ordered that Leonard should be returned to a similar cell with standard inmate clothing, as long as jail officials and mental health counselors deem it is safe.


According to an emergency petition Leonard's attorneys filed Tuesday, he had been held in padded and steel cells since the verdict was announced July 14. They say he was given only a "thick-walled smock" to wear and denied the opportunity to shower for about 16 days. 

Leonard's attorneys say that after the guilty verdict was read, their client was taken to a padded cell and tied to a chair for about an hour. They say he was then stripped, given a "thick-lined smock" to wear and placed in a padded "suicide prevention" cell that had only a hole in the floor where Leonard could relieve himself.

The court documents say the cell was "ostensibly of the purposes of suicide prevention" but that Leonard was left there for four days even after a mental health professional determined he did not intend to harm himself.

Leonard's attorneys say he was then moved to a steel "side cell" and forced to sleep on a cold steel slab without bedding.
Defense attorney David Shircliff says that when he tried to meet with a jail official on July 28 about Leonard's conditions, the jail official refused.
The Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus claims the St Joseph County Sheriff's Department violated Leonard's Constitutional rights.

The paperwork stated, "There is no justifiable reason for the imposition of such bare, barbaric, and inhumane conditions. Leonard has consistently denied having suicidal thoughts and there is no evidence of him being a threat to others. Leonard will continue to suffer physically and psychologically should he remain naked in the steel 'side cell.'"

Jurors found Leonard guilty of 53 criminal charges, including murder and arson related to the November 2012 explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood. 

The judge's order says jail officials can move Leonard to whatever cell they deem appropriate "to properly and appropriately confine" Leonard, but if they move him from a regular segregation cell, they must notify the court immediately.

The St. Joseph County Police Department sent a written response to questions about the situation:

"On August 4, 2015 we received a copy of a defense motion filed in the Mark Leonard matter regarding Mr. Leonard's placement in suicide watch while in our custody. We responded to Judge Marnocha's order this afternoon. Due to inmate privacy concerns, we will not be commenting on the specifics of Mr. Leonard's situation. We have apprised the Court of the reasons for our use of the suicide watch protocol and we will be continuing to evaluate the appropriateness of Mr. Leonard's placement. His safety and well-being, as of those of all of our inmates, are of paramount importance. We will continue to comply with the Court's order in this matter and will advise the Court of any changes in Mr. Leonard's status as those changes occur."

Leonard is scheduled to be sentenced August 14. He could receive a minimum of 45 years in prison and a maximum of 1488 years.