LaPorte County judge denies prisoner's request for lethal injection


An Indiana State Prison inmate serving 95 years for anElkhart County murder wants to be put to death, but a judgeMondayturned down his request.

Walter Leach, 61, is still hoping the governor or another high ranking state governmentofficial will grant his wish to be put on death row.

La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos denied the request by Leach for lethal injection. In his August 20 petition before the court, Leach asked to be put to death claiming Alevizos has authority to rule on his request because the Michigan City prison is inLa Porte County.

No specific reason was given by Leach in his petition for wanting to be put to death. However, the request follows several unsuccessful attempts to have his murderconviction overturned, according to court records.

Alevizos ruled he cannot assume jurisdiction over Leach's request because theoffender did not exhaust all of his options for pursuing his desire to die within the Indiana Department of Corrections.

And, even if all of his options within the DOC were exhausted, Alevizos said no law exists giving the court permission to grant such a request.

Leach was convicted of the July 4, 1995 slaying of Howard VanZant in Nappanee. VanZant was leaving Duke's Bar when he was shot in the head.

Leach was given the maximum 65 years for the slaying and another 30 years for being a habitual offender.

According to Indiana Supreme Court documents from a 1998 appeal of Leach's conviction, witnesses testified at trial Leach was staring angrily at the victim and threatening him insidethe bar.

After everyone went outside to move their vehicles for a street sweeper, a shot rang out and Leach was seen in a ''pistol stance'' with both arms extended out, according to court documents.

In deciding against his appeal, the supreme ruled the trial court in Elkhart County made anerror in telling prospective jurors that Leach was also charged with being a habitualoffender.

However, the high court ruled the evidence substantiating the murder charge against Leachwas so great the mistake did not have any bearing on the jury reaching a guilty verdict.

According to court documents, Leach also filed his request for lethal injection with the offices of Gov. Mike Pence and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Indiana StatePrison Superintendent Bill Wilson.