March 12, 2005 From WTHR-TV Channel 13 News


Marion County Court Security

March 12, 2005
From www.wthr.com

Indianapolis, March 12, 2005 - Now that Brian Nichols is behind bars, many people across the country are pointing fingers at the justice center itself, and not only in Atlanta.

The murders there have renewed calls for tougher security right here in Indianapolis.

John Kautzman of the Indianapolis Bar Association says, "There was such a manhunt underway, it's not surprising they got a break."

Finding a break in the case -- that's how John Kautzman makes a living. And in the process of making a case for a new Marion County courthouse, Kautzman found a break in the current justice system that centers around the building itself.

"We've gone from a building designed for 16 to 20 courts to one that now houses 30 or 32 courts. It's just outlived its usefulness." says Kautzman.

Constructed in 1953, the City-County Building's history boasts more than half a century of stories. Some of them dramas that the Indianapolis Bar President calls unnecessary.

"I don't know if it was a prisoner or a visitor that smuggled a razor blade in behind their belt buckle but ended up slitting their throat," Kautzman recalls.

"There've been some scary moments over there, nothing that's risen to the level of tragedy we see in Atlanta."

But it's the tragedy in Atlanta that could tip the scales of justice and make the burden of proof no longer a concern of the Indianapolis Bar Association as they continue to pursue the construction of a new courthouse.

Jane Magnus-Stinson, a Marion County Superior Court judge says, "One of the things the bar association has been pushing for is a separate building with separate hallways for the public, for prisoners, for employees, just to eliminate that risk."

Eliminating the risk does come with a price. The studies for establishing the need for a new justice center span more than a decade and also estimate the cost to be between $100 and $125 million dollars.

In the last few months, new security cameras have gone in the city county building, and the 68,000 prisoners that move through the building each year now must must wear handcuffs in addition to leg shackles and chains around their waists.