MOTION TO SUPPRESS DVDs OF ‘CONFESSION’ TO BE FILED IN MURDER CASE
WHITE CO.—The defense in the case of Danny K. Coston, charged with murdering two young White County people, Jacob C. Wheeler and Jessica M. Evans, has advised the court of its intent to file a motion to suppress all DVDs taken of Coston’s August 31, 2012 interviews with Sheriff Doug Maier and state police investigators, in which he allegedly confessed to shooting both of the kids.
Coston was in court for another pretrial hearing this morning, once again to an absolute capacity courtroom (although some of it was others waiting to appear in court). Again, the bulk of those present seemed to be the same group who have been following the case on the side of Coston, charged with five separate counts of First-Degree Murder, two counts of Aggravated Battery with a Weapon, a count of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault and a count of Concealment of a Homicidal Death following the shooting deaths of Wheeler and Evans, which authorities believe occurred August 26, 2012.
The most startling thing to come out of the hearing today is actually not THAT startling…it’s de rigueur for murder trials, or any trial for that matter, wherein there’s been a “confession” and that confession was recorded—Coston’s court-appointed attorney Jerry Crisel is doing his job and asking that those DVDs recorded of Coston on the night of the 31st be suppressed (not entered into evidence to be used at trial). The reason why this is commonplace is this: you can’t cross-examine a DVD, neither the defense NOR the state, and the court more often than not sees the recording of a defendant’s interview as the defendant “testifying against himself”—something that’s still forbidden in a trial court under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.
Will Crisel get those DVDs suppressed? It’s hard to say. It depends on a couple of things: 1, How strongly Crisel argues for it and what case law he uses to support his argument; and 2, the strength and reliability of the testimony of the two who were there to witness everything Coston said: the sheriff, and one of two ISP investigators (Bryan Harms or Rick White). Crisel has won the suppression arguments before. He’s also lost them. If the defendant knowingly waives his rights while on tape, oftentimes, those recordings can be used. It’s all a crap shoot, and it all depends on the expertise of the attorneys involved…and that also includes Scott Webb, White County’s prosecutor, who will argue AGAINST suppression and FOR inclusion into evidence. If they’re included, if and/or when this goes to trial, the jury and the audience will get to view/hear the recordings. It will make for some compelling material. But if it’s successfully suppressed, the jury will have to rely on the interviewers’ testimony….which can also be compelling, but by that time, not so much.
Coston was also advised that as of the motion to suppress, his speedy trial clock has stopped until after the motions are heard and decided upon, and the court takes back up regular proceedings in the case to move it toward trial. While jailed, a defendant has the right to a trial by jury within 120 days of incarceration; 160 days if he makes bail. The bail on this case is $3 million ($300,000 cash). It’s unsure whether this will be posted, but stranger things have happened. Nevertheless, Coston’s speedy trial clock is stopped, and he’s sitting in jail until it proceeds.
The motion to suppress hearing has been set for November 28 at 10, and is anticipated to take all day. Coston’s previously-set jury trial date of Nov. 13, therefore, has been vacated, and will be re-set later. A pretrial conference date of Oct. 31 remains.
Because Judge Tom Sutton is retiring, he has turned the case over to Gallatin County resident Judge Tom Foster to hear the remainder of the settings. Foster will need to familiarize himself with the case. We hope he does as good a job as Sutton has done thus far.
Coston was lead out of the courtroom before anyone was allowed to leave. There were no phrases of support spoken from his people this time. His girlfriend, Candice Brown, was present with a contingent, and those were seriously subdued over past appearances. This might be because her preliminary hearing for Obstruction of Justice in this case is set for tomorrow morning. We’ll be here at that time to cover it. Be checking then for developments…because there’s just something bizarre about that situation…and the look on Coston’s face today (which I did capture, but which I’m saving for the next print version…or for this bizarre feeling surrounding this to pan out into something if it does…) kind of lent to it. All I can tell you is…he looked SMUG. And I’ll leave it at that.
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