Defense Moves to Suppress Evidence on Eve of Casper Child Abduction, Sex Assault Trial
A public defender is blaming the Natrona County District Attorney's Office for the filing of a last-minute motion which may delay the trial of a former carnival worker accused of abducting and sexually assaulting a child.
Joshua Ashby Winters, 34, is charged with three felony counts: kidnapping, sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree. He could face 45 years to life plus 70 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Click the above link for the full story on the abduction.
A four-day trial is set to begin Monday, but a motion filed Thursday by public defender Robert Oldham may delay Winters' day in court.
Part of the motion concerns the way Winters was questioned by police. The other issue is the fact that the prosecutor delayed providing some of this evidence as long as 8 months after the defense asked for it.
And when it was finally given to Winters' public defender, it was only one month from the start of the trial.
In a motion in limine, Oldham asks Natrona County District Court Judge Thomas Sullins to exclude from trial Winters' statements to investigators. Oldham argues that investigators violated Winters' constitutional right to remain silent.
After Winters' arrest in the late hours of July 18, he was taken to the Casper Police Department for a custodial interrogation which lasted nearly 12 hours.
Roughly seven hours into the interrogation, Winters told the investigator four times that he was done answering questions. Yet the investigator, the motion says, continued to question Winters.
"Moreover, after this persistent violation of Mr. Winters [sic] constitutional right to remain silent (guaranteed him just hours before) there is absolutely no recognition of this invocation to remain silent by [the detective]," the motion claims.
In the same motion, Oldham brings up issues pertaining to the prosecution's intent to introduce evidence "from the Defendant's statements to law enforcement relating to this matter which are not in the State's estimation 404(b) evidence," as quoted in Oldham's motion.
One of the Wyoming Rules of Evidence, Rule 404(b) permits evidence of "other crimes, wrongs, or acts" to be admitted at trial for purposes such as "proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident," so long as the prosecution "provide[s] reasonable notice" ahead of trial.
Oldham, on Aug. 11, filed a demand for the state to declare its "intent as to what 404(b) evidence the State intended to produce at trial." The state did not respond for eight months, until April 13.
Sullins ruled May 5 that the 404(b) evidence the state intends to produce is admissible under the rule. But Oldham's concern lies with the evidence referenced in the state's April 13 notice which prosecutors don't believe falls under the rule, and which therefore was not the subject of Sullins' May 5 decision.
The evidence in question includes statements Winters allegedly made during an interview with investigators in the early morning hours of July 19.
"At the conclusion of this part of its notice the state informs the parties that the 'maybe' 404(b) evidence is not really 404(b) evidence but rather 'consciousness of guilt evidence,' 'part and parcel,' evidence and/or 'course of conduct evidence' that serves natural development of the facts," Oldham's motion reads. "The defense disagrees with this contention and characterization of the evidence."
Oldham's request comes some two and a half months after the last day motions could be filed in the case, Feb. 25. In his filing, Oldham says it was the district attorney's office which prevented him from complying with the deadline.
"What made compliance impossible was that the state did not turn over the taped statement until March 27, 2017, a full month after the deadline for motions had expired," the motion reads. "Hence, since it was no fault of the Defense it could not meet the deadline, a fair solution would be to give the defense the opportunity to be heard."
Though no hearing on the motion had been set as of 3 p.m. Friday, it is possible a hearing may be set for 8:30 a.m. Monday, with the trial set to commence at 9 a.m.