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Attorneys for Fairfield teens accused of murder fighting evidence, publicity of case

Attorneys for Fairfield teens accused of murder fighting evidence, publicity of case
Attorneys for Fairfield teens accused of murder fighting evidence, publicity of case
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In a filing Wednesday, defense attorney Christine Branstad says law enforcement violated Willard Miller's rights in investigating the homicide of Nohema Graber. Branstad is asking for some evidence and statements made by Miller to be suppressed.

Branstad says a November 4th search warrant to search Miller's home failed to establish probable cause or sufficient reason to seize his computer and phone. She says the warrant application contains no information about the phone or computer and doesn't connect either to the alleged crime.

A November 5th search of the phone itself is also being contested by the defense.

Miller was questioned by police November 4th and Branstad argues he wasn't sufficiently made aware of his rights or the reason for the interrogation.

At the police station, law enforcement presented Miller’s mother with a juvenile waiver and informed her they wished to speak with her son regarding a missing person (Nohema Graber). Miller’s mother was informed about vandalism at Graber’s home. At no time was Miller’s mother informed: the warrant regarded a homicide investigation, the body of Graber was found, or Miller was a suspect.

While Miller signed the juvenile waiver and was read his Miranda rights, Branstad argues Miller didn't validly waive his rights because Miller was not told his "arrest and placement in custody was due to a murder investigation."

Branstad argues the juvenile waiver did not meet the requirements under Iowa statute for a juvenile to be questioned because law enforcement didn't inform Miller's mother about the alleged crime.

"Additionally, law enforcement did not adequately convey the parental right to confer with Miller during the interrogation, further necessitating suppression of Miller’s statements," the filing says.

Miller and Jeremy Goodale, the second teen accused of Graber's murder, are also asking a judge to move their cases to juvenile court. A hearing is set for March 24th.

In a separate filing, Goodale's attorneys are requesting that the public be excluded from that hearing. The defense says testimony regarding confidential information is expected and could make finding an impartial jury more difficult should it be made public.

Attorneys argue media coverage is prohibited in juvenile proceedings and, while both teens are charged as adults now, Iowa law means "hearings regarding waiver of jurisdiction over a juvenile for prosecution as an adult are not open to the public."

Prosecutors says the defense is improperly citing state statute "as this is presently a district court action and the Defendant is at this time, legally considered an adult."

The state argues that because the accused crime is a forcible felony, it's excluded from the jurisdiction of juvenile court unless it's transferred.

A juvenile courts officer is expected to testify about a waiver report, prosecutors write, but the confidential report itself will not be publicized. Prosecutors says closing the entire case to the public is not appropriate in a system that provides the public with faith and confidence in fair outcomes.

The Defendant, in effect, is requesting a secret hearing to present confidential evidence as to whether the remainder of his First Degree Murder trial should be held behind closed doors. This is not in keeping with the principals of the American justice system, and his request should be denied.

A judge will hear arguments on this issue March 21st.

Miller and Goodale are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Nohema Graber, 66, of Fairfield. Graber had been reported missing on November 3 before her remains were found later in the day.

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Investigators believe Graber was killed in the late afternoon on November 2 after her remains were discovered under a tarp, wheelbarrow, and railroad ties at Chautauqua Park in Fairfield, where Graber was known to take walks. She had "suffered inflicted trauma to the head."

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