Several Testify In Hearing Whether To Suppress Evidence In MCHS Shooting Trial
Marshall County Circuit Court Judge James Jameson heard testimony Monday from several witnesses to consider a motion filed to suppress statements to police made by alleged Marshall County High School shooter Gabe Parker, as evidence for the upcoming trial in 2020. Parker is being tried as an adult on two counts of murder and several counts of assualt after last year’s shooting that killed two students and injured fourteen others.
Defense attorneys representing Parker argued in the pretrial motion filed in July that his statements should be suppressed because they were obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. They also argued police didn’t obtain a waiver of his “Miranda rights” and that his statements were involuntarily and without parental notification.
Several witnesses, called on by the prosecution and defense, gave testimony in an effort by the two sides to support or refute the arguments made in the motion. Gabe’s mother, Mary Garrison Minyard, was called to testify because the defense wanted to bolster the argument that she wasn’t notified enough in advance of Parker’s arrest to invoke his right to counsel for him.
“A combination of a confused scene and a chaotic situation -- that explains some of it, but frankly, doesn’t explain all of it,” Defense Attorney Tom Griffiths said. “So, that’s one of the things we were trying to get out this morning, is that the police made a choice. And that choice was to not follow a statute that requires the notification of parents when juveniles have been arrested.”
Yet the prosecution rejected that argument, saying that parental notification was achieved when a law enforcement officer visited the defendant's stepfather at his home and informed his son was a suspect in the shooting. Other disputes also arose from different interpretations on whether or not the accused understood his Miranda rights or his right to counsel during the post-shooting interview.
“The facts were in very little dispute today. And it is more of an interpretation of applying the facts to the law than it is nitpicking what the facts were,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Foust said. “We feel very comfortable that throughout the process, he did fully understand his rights. The interview took place for almost a full two hours, and he acknowledged that he had been read his rights…. and the other thing we think is important to consider is that at some point late in the interview, he did actually say ‘I want an attorney.’”
Defense attorneys cross-examined several law enforcement officers who testified, some who interviewed the alleged shooter, about how the defendant left his glasses in the police cruiser that transported him from the high school to the county sheriff’s office. The defense is arguing that their client’s young age, along with poor eyesight from lacking glasses, means he couldn’t understand during the interview the paper waiver given to him explaining his Miranda rights, a waiver he eventually signed.
“He couldn’t read it,” Griffiths said. “He was a kid, handcuffed in a room surrounded by adults with guns. On top of that, he didn’t have his glasses. And even he didn’t sign the form that they entered into evidence for more than an hour after they were talking to him.”
When asked if the accused’s glasses had any effect on the interview, the prosecution pushed back.
“Point-blank, no. I don’t think that had to do with anything,” Foust said. “I think it’s a voluntary statement that needs to be seen by a jury in a trial. I think it’s important.”
After post-hearing briefs are submitted by both sides, Marshall County Circuit Court Judge James Jameson will publish his decision in September whether to suppress the statements. A status hearing is scheduled for November 15, with the trial slated for next summer in Christian County.