Judge throws out Barrett's statement, indictment in Grunwald murder case
A Palmer judge has ruled statements Austin Barrett made before his arrest for the murder of David Grunwald cannot be used as evidence at trial.
Judge Gregory Heath also dismissed the indictment on seven charges because that same interview was used at grand jury.
Barrett, now 22, is one of four people accused of shooting and killing 16-year-old David Grunwald in November 2016.
Juries have convicted Erick Almandinger, Dominic Johnson and Bradley Renfro of first-degree murder in the slaying. Both Renfro and Almandinger have named Barrett as the one who pulled the trigger and killed Grunwald.
The motions the judge granted were the subject of a five-day evidentiary hearing in December.
Barrett’s attorney, Craig Howard, argued his client invoked his right to stay silent when he told troopers he was going to “plead the fifth.”
That statement was made less than 20 minutes into his interview with troopers.
Troopers said Barrett continued to talk with them after that statement. Barrett then had an interview at the Palmer District Attorney’s Office where Roman Kalytiak made sure Barrett was giving statements voluntarily.
During those interviews, he admitted to being in the trailer where Grunwald was pistol-whipped and at the murder site on Knik River Road.
Judge Heath decided all statements made after Barrett said he was going to “plead the fifth” are suppressed, which means they can’t be used at trial.
In his motion ruling, Judge Heath wrote, “The four minute interval between the end of the Trooper Post interview at the start of the interview with the DA’s office was not sufficient to cure the defect, nor was Defendant given a fresh Miranda warning, making the entire interview one continuous custodial interrogation.”
Judge Heath also said that without those statements being presented to the grand jury, there was little evidence for the grand jury to indict Barrett on seven charges, including first-degree murder.
“Grand jury was not presented with physical or forensic evidence, neutral witness testimony, or social media or phone evidence to support a finding of probable cause that Defendant was involved in the murder of David Grunwald,” Judge Heath wrote.
The grand jury indictment came early in the investigation. At the three previous trials, investigators have used cell phone data and social media records as evidence.
Barrett is to remain in custody until the filing of a new indictment. There will be a status hearing on Jan. 22.
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