On Thursday, May 23, 2024, FOX59 reported that there have been loud calls from the public and law enforcement for months expressing that some Marion County judges have become too lenient with their sentencing. Judge Mark Stoner in particular has faced significant backlash over his rulings in two high-profile cases.

Thousands of citizens signed a petition demanding that Judge Stoner step down after he sentenced Elliahs Dorsey to 25 years in prison plus 15 years probation for killing Indianapolis police officer Breann Leath. Prosecutors had sought a 63-year sentence but Judge Stoner allowed Dorsey to serve the sentences concurrently instead of consecutively and reduced one of the charges. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, the Indiana State Police Alliance, the Indianapolis Merit Board, and the local police union president all spoke out criticizing the decision as a “disgrace” and “miscarriage of justice.”

Shortly after, Judge Stoner ruled that Dacia Lacey was not guilty of killing her newborn infant daughter while high on methamphetamine, even though Lacey had admitted to smothering the child. In his ruling, Judge Stoner said prosecutors charged Lacey with the wrong crime and that while she was a bad mother, they did not prove she intentionally harmed the baby. This decision also drew intense backlash from the public.

While citizens have pushed for Judge Stoner’s removal, the Indianapolis Bar Association defended him, with President-Elect Lee Christie saying Judge Stoner followed sentencing guidelines in the Dorsey case. Christie noted that judges must sentence based on the crimes someone is convicted of by a jury, not what the public feels they should be charged with. Judge Stoner has since announced his plans to retire at the end of 2024.

The article detailed the process citizens can take if they believe a judge has abused their power or shown bias. First, complaints can be filed with the Judicial Nominating and Qualifications Commission, which Christie also sits on. Most complaints do not result in charges, but the committee has voted to remove a judge before. Voters can also vote against retaining a judge every six years in Marion County.

With 18 Marion County judges up for retention this November, eight have volunteered for public interviews on June 11th to allow voters to evaluate them in advance. While Hoosiers do not directly elect judges, their retention votes provide accountability.

 

 

Source: FOX59