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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Civil, human rights investigation to be conducted in Indianapolis

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Civil rights attorney Malik Shabazz is leading an investigation into possible civil and human rights violations in regard to the murder of Dorian Murrell. 

Shabazz is the president of Black Lawyers for Justice, a Maryland-based civil rights law organization. Murrell’s family reached out to Shabazz to try to get answers.

At a rally held outside the city-county building on July 16, Shabazz said the city’s handling of Murrell’s murder investigation is a reflection of how white supremacy “permeates the judicial system.”

Murrell, 18, was killed downtown at roughly 2:30 a.m. May 31, 2020. Tyler Newby, 30, confessed to the killing shortly after. He was charged with murder June 4, 2020. 

Newby told police Murrell shoved him to the ground, and he shot in retaliation. However, a family member who was walking with Murrell said that the altercation didn’t happen, and that Murrell collapsed after being hit with a bullet from an unknown source.

Beyond what they said are inconsistencies between Newby’s story and family members’ recounts of the murder, family and members of the community are also questioning why Newby is out on bail. 

On August 10, 2020, Newby was released on $250,000 bond, $25,000 of which was paid upfront. It is currently unknown who paid Newby’s bail. Shabazz said it’s highly unusual for someone charged with murder to be released on bail, and that no one from the prosecutor’s office has explained to Murrell’s family why Newby was released. 

“If Tyler Newby was a Black man, do you think he would be out on bail?” Shabazz asked a group assembled outside the city-county building July 16. “What this shows is, you can shoot a Black man, pay $25,000 and walk free in Indianapolis.”

Shabazz is also calling for evidence — including video footage from the night of the shooting and social media posts that allegedly show Newby was a white supremacist — to be released. 

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears’ office has not responded to a request for comment.

Shabazz is also concerned about a charge of voluntary manslaughter that was added to Newby’s case July 16. Shabazz and Murrell’s family worry that the addition of a manslaughter charge might mean Newby won’t be convicted of murder. 

Shabazz said the independent investigation into the city and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department will help him determine whether a legal case is warranted. Both Shabazz and local activist Mmoja Ajabu said learning how to navigate the court system can help Black Hoosiers get justice for their loved ones, as well as more equal outcomes when it comes to sentencing and bail. 

“We like to think that because Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that we’re free,” Ajabu said at the rally. “That’s true on paper, but not in practice. A white man said he was shoved and came up shooting and caused a Black man to lose his life, and now he’s free. That’s slavery.”

Newby’s trial will begin Aug. 3 in the Marion County Superior Court.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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