SEEKING JUSTICE: New prosecutor promises to do the work, and do it well

Now that Lindsey Holden-Kay has become only the third person in 44 years to be elected Bartholomew County prosecutor, she says she’s ready to get to work.

Office administration is part of her job, but the 39-year-old Holden-Kay says sitting at a desk is not what she loves. What she’s looking forward to is getting more involved with law enforcement agencies through investigative units including the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Intelligence-Led Policing Team and the Fatal Crash Investigation Team.

“I want to be hands-on with what I do,” Holden-Kay said. “My vision for public safety is someone who not only does the traditional prosecutorial work, but is also very in-tune with the challenges our community is facing.”

Holden-Kay says she will be the prosecutor assigned to the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET), as well as to the Intelligence-Led Policing Team. That means she will take care of after-hours calls from those two law enforcement units as needed, she said.

Her plans are to work closely with her chief deputy prosecuting attorney, Kimberly Sexton, to review drug-related cases and make charging decisions, Holden-Kay said. Sexton has 17 years of drug enforcement experience that Holden-Kay says will be extremely beneficial to the office.

Holden-Kay said either she or Sexton will be actively involved in all cases involving a death, including fatal crashes as well as homicides.

“One of us will also be involved in all Level 1 or Level 2 (the most serious) felonies,” she said.

While working in the Marion County Prosecutors Office and assigned to felony drug, gun and gang cases, Holden-Kay worked with narcotics officers, including going out with police and serving search warrants, as well as observing undercover drug buys, she said.

“When I got out and actually saw what law enforcement was doing to get their work to my desk, it gave me a different perspective than I think a lot of prosecutors have,” Holden-Kay said. “It’s a perspective that I will want all of my deputy prosecutors to have.”

A native of Martinsville, Holden-Kay succeeds William Nash, who held the office from 2002 until the end of last year. Nash was initially elected by narrowly defeating incumbent Joseph Koenig, who became county prosecutor in 1979. Many in the judicial system believe Holden-Kay is the first woman to be elected prosecutor, although that has not been verified at this time.

When asked why Bartholomew County has been seeing a rise in violent crime in recent years, Holden-Kay said there is no all-encompassing answer. Instead, she explained there are a lot of factors at play. For example, the new prosecutor acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic created an increase in domestic violence cases. In addition, the virus also make it difficult for those with psychological or medical problems to get help, she said.

“But the question is really how we react to these problems and handle them,’ Holden-Kay said.

She has already met a number of times with Bartholomew County Sheriff Chris Lane to address the county’s every-increasing drug overdose numbers.

Some local residents believe harsh punishment is the best way to handle violent crime and serious drug felonies. But Holden-Kay and Lane say the “throw em’ in jail and toss away the key” approach has never worked since it became popular in the 1970s.

Holden-Kay says she’s a firm believer in problem-solving courts that look for a root cause for illegal behavior and addressing it. She revealed there is a effort underway to create a mental health court that could join the Family Dependency Court, the Drug Court and the Veteran’s Court in Bartholomew County.

The new prosecutor and the new sheriff also agree there has to be a balance of accountability and treatment.

Although a prosecutor might have a heavy caseload and limited funding, Holden-Kay says her office can’t let congested court dockets and financial limitations determine whether or not to prosecute a criminal.

“It’s more of an issue of not wanting to waste county resources, financial or otherwise, to go to trial on a case the state can’t win,” she said.

Holden-Kay is aware some community members are angry when they perceive a defendant who commits a serious crime gets a lenient sentence. However, she notes that Indiana statutes limit the amount of time that can be served for each crime.

In determining charges, a prosecutor may believe a defendant is guilty, but that’s not where the burden of proof is located.

“The question becomes whether I can prove to 12 individuals serving as a jury that this person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt while also operating in the confines of what the court allows me to put into evidence,” she said.

The new prosecutor explained what she tells juries to help them understand the concept of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“If you wake up in the morning and see snow on the ground where there wasn’t any the night before, you can conclude that it snowed overnight,” Holden-Kay said. “Now, is it possible that your neighbor came over with a snow machine and blasted snow over your yard? Yes, it is possible. But is that a reasonable conclusion? No, it’s not. So in a trial, you are asking if there is a reasonable set of facts in which this person is innocent.”

Even if there is a plea bargain, sentencing is usually determined by the judge with an established criteria used to come up with the appropriate time in prison, Holden-Kay said.

According to Indiana law, mitigating factors such as no criminal record or no criminal intent might lessen an person’s time behind bars, while aggravating factors such as a premeditated intent to harm, as well as a lack of remorse, could be cited for a longer sentence.

If a judge doesn’t use the criteria correctly for sentencing, there’s a risk the sentence could be thrown out in an appellate court.

Holden-Kay declined to comment directly on the legal problems facing her immediate predecessor. Nash is facing a number of charges including obstruction of justice, harassment and intimidation as the result of a confrontation with a neighbor last August, according to court records.

Instead, she expressed her desire to have an office perceived to have integrity, be tough on crime, and to be transparent as possible under ethical guidelines.

“Do I have to do any special work to make that happen? No,” Holden-Kay said. “I just have to do the work and I have to do it well. I have to seek justice in every case that walks through that door.”

Lindsey Holden-Kay

Position: Bartholomew County Prosecutor

Age: 39

Hometown: Martinsville

Education: Class of 2001 at Martinsville High School. Earned a degree in political science from IUPUI in Indianapolis in 2011. Earned her law degree at Maurer School of Law at Indiana University Bloomington in 2014.

Professional experience: Began an internship with the Marion County Prosecutor’s office during her first year of law school in 2012. Hired on as a deputy prosecutor in Marion County after obtaining her law degree and being admitted to the bar. Worked first in a lower-level court specializing in drug possessions. Transferred later to a major felony unit that handled all felony drug, gun and gang prosecutors. Accepted the job of deputy prosecutor in Bartholomew County in 2016. Approinted to succeed Heather Mollo as juvenile magistrate in Bartholomew Circuit Court in 2020, but stepped down in October 2021 to run for prosecutor.

Community: Bartholomew County Bar Association Advisory Board; former member of the Community Corrections Advisory Board; current member of Youth Services Center Advisory Board; graduate of Leadership Bartholomew County; Schmitt Elementary PTO; various positions in the Republican Ladies League; Council for Youth Development Steering Committee; former member of the Indiana Department of Child Services Regional Service Council; volunteer with the Circle C Horse & Pony 4-H Club; past member of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Steering Committee; IUPUC Criminal Justice Program Advisory Board member; member of St. Peters Lutheran Church.

Family: Husband, Jim Kay, daughter Addison, 15, and son Holden, 7.