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Judge slams prosecutors, sheriff for releasing video of Deputy John Durm's death

Orlando Mitchell faces a possible death penalty for allegedy choking deputy during escape attempt
Deputy John Durm
Posted at 11:13 AM, Sep 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-08 11:23:07-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A special judge slammed prosecutors and the sheriff's office over the release of video that showed an inmate attacking Deputy John Durm at the Criminal Justice Center in July.

"I’m a patient guy," Judge Mark A. Smith told deputy prosecutors Friday during a hearing in the death penalty trial of Orlando Mitchell, "but I can tell you going forward that my patience and tolerance for that type of thing, the tone and tenor of this type of hearing will not be consistent with what it is today if this happens again."

Smith admonished prosecutors after Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal shared the video of the attack on Durm during an Aug. 30 press conference. The video was streamed live on social media by WRTV and other news outlets.

The judge said the public release of this video before Mitchell's trial could impact potential jurors and cause trial delays.

"The thing that frustrated me the most was the state specifically asked for a discovery protective order against defense counsel and all their witnesses for doing the exact same thing that your witness did," Smith said.

Orlando Mitchell September hearing.jpg
Orlando Mitchell

According to court documents, Durm was returning Mitchell to the Criminal Justice Center after a medical appointment when the inmate attacked him on July 10.

The video shows Durm walking around a van and opening a rear door to let Mitchell out. Mitchell steps behind the deputy and wraps the chain of his handcuff arms around Durm's neck.

Durm collapses; Mitchell takes his keys, removes the handcuffs and drives away in the van, the video shows.

Mitchell was arrested a short time later after he crashed the van just outside the Criminal Justice Center in the 3000 block of Prospect Street.

Durm died at Eskenazi Hospital later that day.

Mitchell, 34, has been charged with two counts of murder, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and escape in Durm's death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Mitchell is also charged with murder in the 2022 killing of his ex-girlfriend, Krystal Walton, outside an Indianapolis daycare. That trial is set to begin on Jan. 9, 2024.

Judge Smith said he was considering scheduling Mitchell's death penalty trial to begin in August 2026.

Smith is a superior court judge in Hendricks County. The Indiana Supreme Court assigned Smith to preside over Mitchell's case after all Marion County judges were recused for potential conflict of interest.

More: Prosecutor seeking death penalty against man accused of killing Deputy John Durm | Suspect in deputy death accused of killing ex-girlfriend in 2022 | Suspect in deadly shooting of mother at Indianapolis daycare told her he'd kill her, himself |MCSO releases video showing moments before and after Deputy Durm was killed by inmate he was transporting