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Judge denies convicted Elkhart County murderer's request for lethal injection

Walter Leach is serving 95 years in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City for a 1995 Nappanee murder.

Posted on Aug. 26, 2014 at 10:28 a.m.

An Elkhart County convicted murderer’s request to be put to death by lethal injection has been denied by a LaPorte County judge.

Walter Leach, 61, is serving a 95-year sentence at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City for the 1995 murder of Howard VanZant in Nappanee.

The petition was made to a LaPorte County Circuit Court judge on Aug. 20 and it was denied on Aug. 25, according to a report from WSBT.

Witnesses testified during his trial that they saw Leach staring angrily at VanZant and threatening him inside Duke’s Bar on July 4, 1995. VanZant was shot in the head as he exited the bar and witnesses described seeing Leach in a “pistol stance” pointing at VanZant.

He was sentenced to the maximum of 65 years for the murder, with an added 30 years for being a habitual offender.

Leach did not give a reason for wanting to be put to death, but his request comes after several unsuccessful attempts to have his conviction overturned, WSBT reports.

In his denial of the request, Judge Tom Alevizos said he could not assume jurisdiction over Leach’s request because Leach has not pursued all his options for his request through the Indiana Department of Correction. Even after he has exhausted those options, Alevizos said there is no law that would give the court authority to grant that request.

Leach has also filed requests for lethal injection with the offices of Gov. Mike Pence, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Indiana State Prison Superintendent Bill Wilson, WSBT reports.

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