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Test jury screened in deadly explosion

Indianapolis judgemulls venue switch

Prosecutors and attorneys for one of the suspects in a deadly Indianapolis house explosion began assessing Monday whether they can successfully assemble an impartial jury in the city where it happened.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Sheila Carlisle spent the morning working with the defense team and prosecutors, screening a test jury of 125 residents to determinewhether they could find enough to seat a jury.

Lawyers for Mark Leonard, one of three suspects in the explosion, have asked that the trial to be moved.

By the end of Monday’s hearing, the lawyers and Carlisle and decided to strike 25 potential jurors from the list of 125 for the test jury.

The parties are set to spend the rest of the week questioning “test jurors before Carlisle decides whether the trial should be moved.

Leonard, ex-girlfriend Mon­ser­rate Shirley and brother Bob Leonard face murder, arson and conspiracy to commit arson charges in the November 2012 blast that killed two of Shirley’s neighbors and wrecked dozens of houses on the city’s south side.

Prosecutors allege the three people set the explosions in Shirley’s home as part of a scheme to collect $300,000 from insurance.

Deana Martin and Diane Black, public defenders appointed to represent Mark Leonard, introduced stories from Indianapolis television stations and the Indianapolis Star as evidence of the media saturation that they say would make it difficult to assemble an impartial jury.

Carlisle said she would need some time to read through the evidence.

After the hearing, lead prosecutor Denise Robinson declined to say whether she thought the trial would be moved.

Monday’s hearing is but one step in what could be a long process: Each suspect is being tried separately.