Earlier this month, prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for Anthony Russell, after he violated the no contact order his estranged wife Laura Russell (pictured above) had against him.
That order came back in August, after Anthony was arrested and charged with strangulation, domestic battery, and interference with reporting a crime.
Authorities say he continued stalking his former flame in spite of the order. Laura dutifully reported each incident to the police, causing prosecutors to file FIVE felony charges of stalking against him, as well as a motion to have him arrested.
However, Jefferson County Indiana Superior Judge Michael Hensley denied the motion, instead issuing a summons for Mr. Russell to appear in court after Columbus Day weekend.
But, that Friday, police found that Anthony had stabbed Laura to death in her home, before ultimately taking his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In the wake of the murder-suicide, people have blamed Judge Hensley for Laura’s tragic death because his order to arrest Anthony would likely have prevented the tragedy.
On Monday, His Honor finally responded to the backlash, issuing a statement to the Madison Courier, saying:
“Out of respect for the family of Laura Russell I have waited until after her funeral before making any comment on her tragic death. I express my deepest condolences to her loved ones. I feel horrible about her death and realize the regret I express and information I provide in this statement do not bring her back.”
He went on to explain why he didn’t issue the arrest warrant, adding:
“Still, I feel that her family and the public at large deserve to know what procedurally happened. I did not issue a warrant in this case for the immediate arrest of her estranged husband. My role is not to simply grant all warrants without review. Certain legal standards must be met before I can issue a warrant. The reason I did not issue a warrant in this case is that there was not sufficient probable cause. Without probable cause I do not have the power to issue a warrant. I made what I thought to be the correct legal decision. Obviously, I made a decision that had the most tragic result possible…
When I do not find probable cause on a warrant request, I will now issue an order for a hearing to be held on the same day as the warrant request. I am hopeful the new procedure prevents a similar tragedy in the future.”
At least that’s something.
Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis explained exactly why he disagreed so strongly with Judge Hensley’s original decision, saying:
“In Indiana, probable cause for arrest exists where facts and circumstances within an officer’s knowledge and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable caution to believe that an offense has been or is being committed by the person to be arrested. It is a reasonable ground for belief in certain alleged facts. It is more than mere suspicion, but it does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it is a low standard.
In filing the criminal charges and seeking an arrest warrant, the prosecutor’s office believed there to be probable cause that a crime had been committed. Commencing a prosecution is not permitted by most ethical standards unless the prosecutor believes probable cause exists to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant has committed it. This requirement is not considered lightly. The magnitude of the charging decision does not dictate that it be made timidly, but it does dictate that it should be made wisely and with the exercise of sound professional judgment. It was our office’s professional judgment that probable cause did exist.
Lewis also told the publication he hopes the terrible tragedy will prevent such horrible cases in the future, saying:
“The prosecutor’s office welcomes any procedure changes the judge is willing to make in an effort to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. The judge acknowledging that court procedure could help prevent another tragic decision is a step forward to combat domestic violence and aid in public safety.”
Do YOU think this tragedy will help victims of domestic violence in the future??
[Image via WFMY.]