INDIANAPOLIS (November 24, 2015) - The two men charged in the murder of Amanda Blackburn made their first court appearance Tuesday.
The suspects, 18-year-old Larry Jo Taylor, Jr. and 21-year-old Jalen Watson, entered a not guilty plea and both were assigned public defenders. Prosecutors requested a no contact order be issued for several people, and the judge approved the request.
Taylor and Watson have been charged in the murder of Amanda Blackburn, a pastor’s pregnant wife who was shot during a home invasion robbery on Nov. 10.
With charges now filed in the Blackburn case, prosecutors have a number of options available at their disposal, ranging from sentence enhancements to the death penalty.
“As the prosecutor indicated, there’s a process through our office,” said Deputy Prosecutor, Denise Robinson. “There are death penalty aggravators that would apply in the case. But that process has yet to be started.”
Tuesday, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office confirmed the filing of a sentence enhancement for Larry Taylor, related to murder resulting in the termination of pregnancy. It will be added to the case and presented to the jury in trial. If the enhancement is applied to the sentencing, it could add an extra 6 to 20 years to the sentence.
The sentence enhancement is made possible under a state law written by State Sen. Jim Merritt after the 2008 shooting of a pregnant woman whose baby didn't survive.
“It is heartbreaking,” said Merritt. “I'm hopeful that it allows prosecutors to have another tool in the toolbox to say to that criminal that if you fire a gun you might not only be killing one person, you might be killing two.”
Taylor has been charged with felony murder, three counts of burglary, three counts of theft, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury, criminal confinement, auto theft and carrying a handgun without a license. Watson has been charged with murder, three counts of burglary, three counts of theft, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and auto theft.
Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry says they'll treat this like any other case, and take the family’s wishes into consideration.
“In every single case where there are aggravating factors, we follow the same procedure every single time,” said Curry. “We meet internally to review the case, and we meet with the family and ultimately make a decision rather than making a decision based on snap judgment.”
Robinson said investigators have a lot of evidence to go through from the three crime scenes associated with the suspects’ alleged crime spree on the morning of November 10.
“The Crime Lab has quite a bit of work to do on the case,” Robinson said. “We asked for a rush on some items of evidence. But obviously, we can’t rush everything.”
Robinson said examining all the evidence can take weeks or months.
“It doesn’t quite work like it does on television where all of that is processed within days, or hours I guess, or minutes if you’re on television,” Robinson said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Taylor and Watson’s alleged accomplice, Diano Gordon, had not been charged in the Amanda Blackburn case.
“We’re waiting for some test results and some information before determining what charges will be filed against Gordon,” Robinson said.
A pretrial conference for Taylor and Watson is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2016.
The trial date has not been set.