Indianapolis Star Editorial

Cheap Public Safety has Fatal Costs

June 17, 2005
Our position is: The Terrence Anderson case is another wake-up call or revamping Marion County's criminal justice system.

Marion County government had plenty of chances to keep Terrance "Mob" Anderson from allegedly murdering 21-year-old Thomas Edmondson and 16-year-old Tyric Rudolph.

One chance came May 24. Even after Prosecutor Carl Brizzi dropped a cocaine possession case, Anderson could have been held on the most recent of his numerous warrants for skipping court dates. A chance also arose earlier that month, after Anderson was picked up on a domestic battery charge. Instead, he was released.

Because of overcrowding in the jail.

Another chance presented itself in October 2004, when Anderson landed in jail after skipping another court date. Judge David Shaheed made sure he stuck around by ordering a $10,000 bond. But he was released three months later because the jail hit the cap of 1,135 set by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker. Anderson later failed to appear for another court date.

Because of pursuing public safety on the cheap.

Then there was August 2004, when Anderson was picked up for his second marijuana possession arrest. Or earlier that month when he could have been arrested for skipping out on another court date. Or that day in June of last year when he was arrested on another marijuana possession charge. He failed to show for that case two months later.

Because they didn't keep Anderson in jail.

Would Edmondson and Rudolph still be alive? Surely. Would VanDaryl Duff or Snowvia Cousins have not been shot at? Likely. Would Ronnie Petro's house have not been shot up? Definitely.

But remember this: Anderson's case is far from the only example of how Marion County government's penny-pinching of public safety has led to the system falling apart.

There were 847 "failure to appear" arrests last year, a 49 percent increase from 2003; that likely will be surpassed this year as 716 arrests have been made so far.

Early releases from the jail have risen 180 percent, according to Kevin Charles Murray, counsel to the Marion County sheriff. Judge Shaheed himself notes that "someone I sentenced to 180 days" got an early release last week.

It's long past time to fix the criminal justice system in Marion County. Consider the terrible messages we'll be sending to criminals, taxpayers, even the tourists we want to lure here, if we don't.