Criminal Justice

Judge: My probable cause decision 'had the most tragic result possible'

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An Indiana judge who refused to sign an arrest warrant for a man accused of stalking his estranged wife says his decision “had the most tragic result possible.”

Judge Michael Hensley of Madison refused to issue a warrant for the arrest of Anthony Russell on Oct. 6 and instead issued a summons for the defendant to appear in court Oct. 11, after a three-day holiday weekend, report the Madison Courier (here and here) and KHOU. Russell and his estranged wife, Laura, were found dead on Oct. 7.

Laura Russell died from multiple stabbing wounds and Anthony Russell died from a gunshot wound. Police believe Anthony Russell killed his wife at her home then shot himself in his vehicle.

Anthony Russell had been free on bond after being charged in August with strangulation and domestic battery for allegedly attacking his wife. Laura Russell obtained a no-contact order, but she told police her friends saw Anthony Russell waiting for her in a restaurant parking lot, and she had seen him waving at her on the way home from work and at a gas station near her daughter’s school. She also said he tried to follow her to the gym.

Hensley released a statement about the case this week that expressed condolences to Laura Russell’s family. “I feel horrible about her death,” he said in the statement, “and realize the regret I express and information I provide in this statement do not bring her back.”

The statement explains that Hensley refused to issue the warrant because he did not think the legal standard was met for probable cause. “I made what I thought to be the correct legal decision,” he wrote. “Obviously, I made a decision that had the most tragic result possible.”

The statement goes on to say that Hensley will change his procedures. In the future, when he refuses to issue an arrest warrant, he will issue an order for a hearing to be held on the same day as the warrant request. “I am hopeful the new procedure prevents a similar tragedy in the future,” he wrote.

Updated Oct. 21 to correct a typographical error.

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