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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The conversation over repeat violent offenders and the revolving door of justice is escalating. Now, lawmakers are weighing in after the arrest of Robert Burks.
Burks is charged with killing Julie Morey, a homeless woman. Court records show knew Burks. The question is, should he have been out of jail to commit a crime in November 2019 in the first place?
This is a problem the Fraternal Order of Police and Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition leaders have been highlighting since September. They have maintained dangerous repeat convicted offenders are getting out on low bonds or no bonds, increasing the crime rate and putting innocent people and officers in danger.
Donte Swinton is another repeat offender. He was arrested for pointing what appeared to be an AR-15 style rifle at an IMPD detective when police said he was let out on a drastically lower bond. Fortunately, the gun did not fire.
Swinton is now charged federally for possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense.
“Your state unleashes these maniacs onto our society and making it unsafe for us to live,” a friend of Morey’s said.
The friend wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation after speaking out. This is the frustration many in our community feel after learning Morey’s alleged killer could have been in jail at the time of her death.
Morey was found strangled and stabbed to death inside Saint Patrick Catholic Church in early November. She was homeless at the time.
“She felt safe in a church,” her friend said.
Burks, the man charged with her murder, has a long criminal history including a repeat battery conviction. Court records show a judge suspended his year-long sentence for this August 2018 case, and instead required him to take anger management classes.
Records show he violated his probation several times in this case before a judge sentenced him to 60 days in jail on July 24, 2019.
In December 2018, he was placed on pre-trial release for a battery case in Monroe County, and he was not showing up for his court dates.
Then, in July 2019, he was arrested and convicted for being a habitual traffic offender. It appears a judge suspended his year-long sentence on July 22, 2019.
This put him back on the street. In November 2019, he allegedly killed Morey.
“You all in Indiana seem to love your prisoners and you unleash them onto society on a regular basis,” Morey’s friend said.
Neighbors told CBS4 they don’t feel like our elected leaders and our judges are doing enough to protect them in their neighborhoods from people with past criminal convictions. So, we brought their concerns to Republican lawmaker Aaron Freeman.
“A driving offense here may not seem like such a big deal, but when you get the whole picture and you see maybe three pages of criminal history and all that’s going on, I just want to make sure we are providing our judiciary all the resources necessary for them to make a good informed decision,” Sen. Freeman said.
Court records come from different databases in Indiana. Freeman insists those must be in sync and up to date for judges to make better pre-trial or post-conviction decisions on repeat offenders.
“When you get a page 2 or 3 or more of criminal history, those are the people we really need to focus on,” Freeman explained. “We really need to ensure that again we’re giving all the tools to the judiciary to make a really wise decision and maybe it’s time for these people to go away for a little while for the sake of our community and for the sake of our law enforcement.”
State lawmakers are now focusing on new solutions.
“Look, I hear Rick Snyder and the FOP, I hear local police officers on the street kind of crying out for help,” Freeman said. “Hopefully here in what’s left of the legislative session we can do everything we can do to kind of build some of those coalitions, and really bring the judges in, work with the FOP, work with the officer on the street, maybe we need to bring in the state police.”
Freeman insists Indiana judges always try to do the right thing. He said he wants to help find a way for police, judges and the community to see the information lawmakers see.
“We get some of that data here, so there’s all kind of reporting requirements that come to state legislature,” Freeman said. “We need to make sure that these reports that are being generated really get pushed down to the locals that are really going to the judiciary, that are really going to the FOP, that are going to the local city councils so that they see this data as well, so that each community can judge for themselves where we are with these kinds of things.”