Judge Rules Murder Suspect’s Statements Not Allowed In Court
By Mike Perleberg
(Versailles, Ind.) – A Ripley County judge has ruled that statements a murder suspect made to Indiana State Police investigators cannot be used in court during her trial.
Allison Moore, 23, of Colerain Township, Ohio, is accused of murdering 68-year-old Milan resident Nancy Hershman during a break-in one morning in December 2012.
Moore was to go on trial for Murder and Burglary this week, but prosecutors asked Friday the trial be continued.
The reason for the continuance became apparent Monday. According to a court order, Ripley Circuit Court Judge Carl Taul ruled that detectives questioning Moore just prior to her arrest did not “scrupulously honor” her right to remain silent and did not read her Miranda Rights appropriately.
“Based on the Court’s ruling and the timing of it the Prosecution asked for a continuance of the trial so a possible appeal could be explored and further evaluation of the case. The Court granted that motion,” Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel said in a statement.
Unless such an appeal is successful, Moore’s statements will be suppressed if and when the trial does happen.
In the order, Taul found that “The Defendant was clearly in custody in this situation and was initially given the Miranda warnings. Defendant clearly exercises her right to remain silent (page 8 of the transcript) however Detective (Vance) Patton continued to question the Defendant. Both Patton and (Detective Tom) Baxter leave the interrogation room and First Sergeant Scott continued to ask questions of the Defendant, which questioning ultimately results in the reintroduction of Detective Baxter to the interrogation room after only five (5) or six (6) minutes from the time he left. Detective Baxter then proceeds to continue discussions with Defendant without giving the Miranda warning.”
Taul cited prior case law, notably the landmark Miranda v. Arizona ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which he said warning procedure is made clear.
No new date has been set for Moore’s trial. Although her statements to investigators appear that they won’t be allowed, prosecutors will still be able to rely on what they learned of the Hershman murder from 16-year-old Sean Nichols, also of Colerain Township. He participated in the alleged break-in with Moore and a third suspect, 17-year-old Daniel Hodge.
Nichols reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in January and was sentenced to 50 years between prison and probation. At his sentencing hearing, Nichols detailed the night and morning of the Hershman murder while under oath. He must also testify at the trials of Moore and Hodge.
According to jail records, Nichols had been brought from state prison to the Ripley County Jail last week in anticipation of the Moore trial.
Hodge is scheduled to go on trial July 7 in Ripley County.