Jail conditions ordered eased for man convicted in southside blast

Daily Journal staff and wire reports


A judge has ordered a northern Indiana jail to ease conditions for an Indianapolis man awaiting sentencing on charges stemming from a deadly house explosion.

St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha issued an order this week saying Mark Leonard “shall not be confined within any steel side cell or padded cell” and “the defendant shall enjoy standard inmate clothing and access to shower facilities.”

Before the verdict in the Richmond Hill trial was announced, Leonard was held in a segregation cell at the St Joseph County Jail. Marnocha said he should be returned to a similar cell, as long as jail officials and mental health counselors deem it is safe.

Leonard was convicted of the deadly house explosion that killed his neighbors — a Greenwood teacher and her husband. More than 80 homes in the subdivision just north of County Line Road were damaged or demolished.

Court documents filed on Leonard’s behalf charged the St. Joseph County Jail in South Bend with violating the rights of the 46-year-old Leonard.

“There is no justifiable reason for the imposition of such bare, barbaric and inhumane conditions. Leonard has consistently denied having suicidal thoughts and there is no evidence of him being a threat to others. Leonard will continue to suffer physically and psychologically should he remain naked in the steel side cell.’”

Leonard had been forced to sleep on a “cold steel table” following his July 14 conviction on murder, arson and conspiracy charges stemming from the 2012 explosion, the documents said. He could wear only a thick smock and was not allowed to shower for 16 days, they said.

Leonard initially was placed in a padded cell “ostensibly of the purposes of suicide prevention,” but he was left there for four days even after a mental health professional determined Leonard did not intend to harm himself, documents said.

The jail issued a statement saying it “responded” to Marnocha’s order Wednesday afternoon but said “we will not be commenting on the specifics of Mr. Leonard’s situation.”

“We will continue to comply with the Court’s order in this matter and will advise the Court of any changes in Mr. Leonard’s status as those changes occur,” the statement said.

Leonard is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 14.