Defense asks judge to throw out evidence in teens' alleged murder of teacher over bad grades
Two teens are accused of killing their Spanish teacher in 2021.
A lawyer for one of two Iowa teenagers accused of murdering their Spanish teacher, Nohema Graber, asked a judge to suppress evidence gathered by law enforcement, claiming that the accused's constitutional, statutory and Miranda rights were violated.
Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale have been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the 2021 death of the 66-year-old Fairfield High School teacher. The two teens, who are being charged as adults, pleaded not guilty last year.
In court filings, prosecutors revealed that Miller's motive was his poor grade in Graber's Spanish class.
In interviews with investigators, Miller "voiced his frustration over Graber hurting his grade point average and thought she was doing that to other students also," even going as far as to use an expletive to describe Graber, court documents show.
In a hearing Wednesday, a lawyer for Miller claimed that there was not a knowing or voluntary waiver of Miller's right to remain silent or right to an attorney before he was interviewed by law enforcement last year, asking a judge to throw out evidence.
The defense also asked the court to throw out evidence gathered by search warrants, claiming they violated Millers' constitutional and statutory rights. The defense claimed that search warrants included conclusions not supported by facts and failed to include the credibility of individuals relied upon by law enforcement, referring to a confidential informant.
In court filings, prosecutors pushed back against this claim, stating that the two witnesses in question should be viewed as "citizen informants," saying they had nothing to gain from providing information to law enforcement
The defense also claimed the warrants were overly broad and did not sufficiently explain why a cellphone and laptop should be seized.
The focus of the hearing Wednesday was a Miranda form signed by Miller's mother. Miller's lawyer argued that the accused's mother, Annalisa Clifford Gold, did not know what she was signing when she signed a Miranda form that allowed investigators to interrogate her son.
Prosecutors pushed back on that claim, saying that law enforcement read the defendant his Miranda rights, that the defendant clearly understood them, initialed them and waived them.
Clifford Gold testified Wednesday that she did not have her reading glasses when law enforcement asked her to sign a Miranda form at the Jefferson County Law Center. When she told law enforcement she couldn't read the form, an investigator paraphrased what it said and told her it was so they could speak with Miller.
She then signed the form, but claimed she was not told information or rights that were listed on it, including that Miller was in custody and that she had the right speak with him. Clifford Gold also alleged that police had not told her Graber had been found dead when she signed the Miranda form.
Clifford Gold also alleged law enforcement continued to interrogate Miller "long after" she told them to stop.
The prosecution claimed that whether Clifford Gold was allowed to speak with her son, got in the room or told officers to terminate the investigation makes no difference in this circumstance because of the nature of the offenses being investigated by police. The nature of the offense meant that Miller would be treated as an adult under Iowa law.
Recordings and a transcript of Miller's interrogation are being kept under seal.
Officers went to Clifford Gold's house at about 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2021. Miller was then taken into the Jefferson County Law Center. Clifford Gold said she was not notified that her son was being charged until 4:15 p.m.
Clifford Gold claimed she was told all of Graber's students and their parents were being rounded up by police to figure out what happened to her and why she had disappeared, alleging she was under the impression that all the students were together and that parents were with them. She believed that police just needed her permission to be able to talk to students.
Clifford Gold alleged she was not aware that her son was in trouble until she was told she could not see him. Clifford Gold alleged she would not have let her son speak with police without a lawyer if she knew he was being charged with murder.
After consulting a friend, who was a former police officer, Clifford Gold said she told police to stop the interrogation of her son, but later learned the interrogation continued for "hours." Clifford Gold alleged that law enforcement denied her access to her son, who at the time was only 16 years old, and said she had no way of communicating with him when he was taken into custody.
Attorneys for the defense have until Nov. 21 and prosecutors have until Nov. 28 to file a briefing on the motion to suppress evidence.
In court filings last year, law enforcement claimed they received a tip from an associate of the two teenagers that included social media messages between Miller and Goodale allegedly sharing details of their motive and plan for killing Graber. After her family had reported that she was missing, Graber was found in Chautauqua City Park concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties.
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