November 25, 2002 13 Eyewitness News

Legal community pushes for justice center

November 25, 2002
Indianapolis, Nov. 25 - Planning for the current City-County Building began in 1953. It was dedicated in 1963. Then subsequent studies in 1974, 1991, 1998 and 1999 recommended constructing a new judicial center.

"We are a disaster waiting to happen in CCB," says superior court Judge Cynthia Ayers.

Now 34 courts are crammed into the same space that housed 20 courts almost 40 years ago. Witness protection by separation does not exist. Lawyer-client conversations must take place with 12 other belly-chained prisoners in the jury box and "the lockups have common walls with the jury room," points out public defender Dave Cook. "We've had some instances of mistrial because defendants bang on the wall telling the jurors the way they're looking at the cases were wrong."

Prosecutor Scott Newman says prisoner transfers in public hallways can also be a problem. 'Gangs of prisoners walk by that childs' haven everyday. If you wonder what it's like to be exposed to that, think about what I said about revictimizing victims."

When the CCB was constructed, the biggest threat to our legal system came from defendants. Now it's from the public, 427 arrests, an average of 42 per month are made inside the building.

With jail overcrowding and a new Indianapolis Colts football stadium already in discussions, many are concerned the Marion County and Indianapolis bars concern about justice will get lost.

"I know football players are a lot more popular than lawyers," But Newman says it's really about litigants, witnesses, jurors and the public, all of whom have a stake in seeing justice done.

The Marion County and Indianapolis bars are determined not to let this need go unaddressed. That is why the groups kicked off the Campaign for a Safe and Adequate Justice Center on Monday. They say the current facility is undignified, unsafe and unjust.

Kevin Rader/Eyewitness News