Prosecutors preparing for early trial in double murder case

Local News

While it remains to be seen if their respective attorneys will adopt the strategy, the two men charged with double murder earlier this week said they will pursue an early trial date. Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann said while early or speedy trials are not terribly uncommon, they do pose some challenges for both the prosecution and defense.

Minutes before he passed, one of the murder victims, Dewone Broomfield, reportedly told dispatchers and responding officers that Deshay Hackner, 22, and William Rice, 19, shot him multiple times. Prosecutors will seek life without parole for Hackner and Rice, who are also accused of fatally shooting Mary Woodruff at a home in the 200-block of East Maryland Street late Monday night.

Hackner and Rice made their initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon. The court automatically entered not guilty pleas on their behalf while the two men await the opportunity to obtain counsel or be appointed a public defender. Hackner and Rice also verbally requested speedy trials.

Hermann said if the defendants do, in fact, seek early trials, the proceedings would have to begin within 70 days. That short of a timeline can pose a challenge when it comes to testing of DNA or forensic evidence.

“The most obvious [challenge]  is getting information back. If you are going to do any type of testing like a DNA test or something like that, it really hampers the time that you have to do that,” Hermann said. “But there is an exception to the rule that allows us to get an additional 90 days in order to get that type of testing done.”

The challenges to an early trial aren’t exclusive to the prosecution. Because prosecutors are seeking life without the possibility of parole against Hackner and Rice, their respective attorneys will likely want to employ mitigation experts to help with the sentencing phase of the trial if a conviction is rendered.

“It’s not uncommon for attorneys to want to go back and look at people’s childhood, their substance abuse, their mental health, those types of things to prepare an argument,” Hermann said. “If you force an early trial, it puts a hamper on them.”

Detectives are still working to establish what, if any, prior connections there were between the suspects and the victims. Neither suspect is unfamiliar with the criminal justice system.

Just two weeks before the double murder, a jury acquitted Hackner of the murder of Willie Williams on Thanksgiving night in 2014. Hackner also has a lengthy criminal history including charges of robbery with a firearm, resisting arrest, theft, carjacking and battery. He is considered a serious violent felon, according to court records.

“Obviously, there is pressure because it is an important case. Obviously, there’s pressure because it’s a loss of life,” Hermann said. “But that’s not any different than any other type of murder case. What I do think though is when you look at the enhancements, when you look at the facts surrounding this, this is obviously someone who has proven to be a dangerous individual.”

Rice is also no stranger to law enforcement. In October 2016, he pleaded guilty to robbing a cab driver at gunpoint. As part of the plea deal, Rice was sentenced to time served and was placed on probation. In early October 2017, Rice allegedly led police on a six to eight mile chase on the city’s southeast side before he crashed into the welcome sign of an apartment complex. Rice allegedly evaded authorities but a warrant for his arrest was later filed. 

Rice was allegedly driving a stolen car that had been implicated in at least two drive by shootings.

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