Man’s murder trial set to begin

For the first time in more than a decade, a man will be on trial for murder in Johnson County.

This week, jurors will be asked to look at evidence and hear testimony from witnesses to determine if Marcus Hardy, 30, is guilty of murdering a man in a Greenwood apartment last year in what police have called a drug deal gone awry.

In August, 20-year-old Douglas Anre Lee Lane, of Bargersville, was shot in the head by a semi-automatic handgun at close range at Park Greenwood Apartments off U.S. 31 in Greenwood. Police said Hardy, of Indianapolis, shot Lane during a robbery. The two had arranged to meet at the apartment so that Lane could buy marijuana from Hardy. Instead, police said Hardy stole money from Lane and shot him.

Hardy was arrested in Merrillville after police tracked him through Lane’s cellphone, which Hardy had stolen, police reports said.

Now, Hardy faces between 45 to 65 years in prison for the murder charge, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said.

The trial is set to begin Tuesday, with jury selection in the morning, where attorneys and the judge will narrow down a list of 55 potential jurors. Later in the day, the group selected will hear opening statements from both the prosecution and the defense. Over the next few days, both sides will present evidence to support their case, and the trial is expected to be finished by Thursday or Friday, Cooper said.

Hardy’s trial would be the first murder trial in the county since 2002, when a jury found Franklin resident Ronald Shanabarger guilty of killing his 7-month-old son by suffocating him with plastic wrap. Since then, the county has had a handful of murder cases, but they did not go to trial.

Murder trials are rare because typically the person will agree to plead guilty before going in front of a jury, said Johnson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Loyd, who will preside over this case. A jury trial could be risky because the person could be sentenced to the full amount of prison time that is allowed under the law, Loyd said. Usually someone agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a shorter sentence.

A jury trial will usually cost taxpayers about $3,500 on average, not including the expenses for providing a public defender, Loyd said. About $2,500 to $3,000 will be used to pay the 12 jurors for their time, and the court will cover a meal during their deliberation, he said. If the jury spends multiple hours deliberating and is not done by the end of the night, Loyd may have to cover hotel expenses in order to sequester them, he said.

The county also paid for an investigator to track down witnesses on behalf of Hardy’s public defender, John “Phil” Wilson, he said.

Cooper does not know if Hardy will testify at the trial, he said. Hardy’s attorney was not available Friday.

Hardy pleaded not guilty to murder in September, and earlier this year asked for a speedy trial, which means the trial has to happen within 70 days of his request, Loyd said.

In February, the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office added a charge of robbery to the case.

Police said in the days leading up to the murder, Lane and Hardy had sent messages through Facebook arranging for Lane to purchase a pound of marijuana from Hardy for $3,200. But Hardy never intended to sell drugs and did not have any marijuana on him or in his car, according to police reports.

Inside a bedroom of the apartment, Hardy demanded all of the money from Lane’s pockets. After Lane gave him everything he had, Hardy tried to dig into Lane’s pockets for more. The two argued, and then Hardy shot him, according to police reports.

Police began searching for Hardy, who got in a high-speed chase with officers through Indianapolis. Hardy crashed the vehicle, ran and got away. But U.S. marshals found him in a shopping center in Merrillville two days later, police reports said.

He has been held in the Johnson County jail since his arrest.