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Case of one Fairfield teen accused in teacher’s murder on hold, pending appeal of recent rulings
Willard Miller’s lawyer asking Iowa Supreme Court to overturn ruling that would keep hearings open to public
FAIRFIELD — A judge suspended court proceedings for one of the Fairfield teens accused of killing their high school Spanish teacher with a baseball bat after his lawyer filed an appeal with the Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The interlocutory appeal asks the court to overturn 8th Judicial District Judge Shawn Showers’ rulings Tuesday which allows the public — including media — to attend a hearing Thursday about moving the first-degree murder case of Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, 16, to juvenile court.
Miller’s lawyer also asked the court to overturn Showers’ ruling denying the request to have a suppression hearing before the Thursday hearing .
The other teen charged, Jeremy Everett Goodale, 16, hadn’t filed a similar appeal as of Wednesday morning, and his “reverse-waiver” hearing is set for 1:15 p.m. Thursday.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown, the prosecutor, said Goodale’s hearing will go forward unless something else is filed by his lawyers.
Showers, in his ruling Tuesday, said the teens’ lawyers didn’t show that the trial rights of the teens would be “irreparably damaged” by having a public hearing.
Goodale and Miller are charged as adults, and court rules state that a reverse waiver hearing -- sending a case to juvenile court -- is public, according to the ruling.
If the cases were moved to juvenile court, the teens would face lesser charges and sentences. If the teens stay in adult court and are convicted of first-degree murder, they would face long-term prison sentences, though less than the mandatory life sentences given to adults, because they are juveniles.
Christine Branstad, Miller’s lawyer, makes most of the same arguments in her appeal that she made in Jefferson County District Court on Monday.
She argues the prosecution will rely on evidence it unlawfully obtained, which the defense will ask the court to keep out of trial. The defense wants to keep out Miller’s statements to police and any physical evidence law enforcement obtained.
In the appeal, she asks the court to review if the district court can ignore court rules and clear language of the Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure by forcing a defendant to litigate reverse waiver when the prosecution intends to rely on evidence gathered in violation of constitutional rights.
Branstad also asks if a defendant’s right to a fair trial is prejudiced when the prosecution during a pretrial hearing is allowed to publish and rely on confidential and privileged information, as well as other evidence obtained that violated constitutional rights.
“There is no un-ringing of this bell,” Branstad said in the appeal. “Either the state may air confidential, protected and privileged information to the public and taint the statewide jury pool, or the constitutional rights of Miller are protected and the state is limited to only evidence collected through constitutional and legal processes.”
Branstad said once the evidence is out of the “proverbial box,” it will be repeated over and over by the media.
On Monday, unsealed search warrants provided more details on the crime and that the teens used a baseball bat to kill Nohema Graber, 66, who taught at Fairfield High since 2012.
The teens schemed over social media to kill Graber by monitoring her routine before ambushing her on her daily walk in a city park, killing her and later hiding her body, according to court documents.
Showers, in a ruling Monday, said the trials for both teens could be moved out of Jefferson County because the defense planned to file a change of venue and the prosecution will not resist.
Goodale’s trial was reset to Aug. 23 and Miller’s to Nov. 1.
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