Jury will be allowed to hear a defendant's statements in Dystiny Myers murder case

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comDecember 17, 2012 

A jury can hear statements a defendant in the Dystiny Myers murder case made to first responders at the crime scene, a judge ruled Monday.

During testimony offered earlier this month, several firefighters testified that Cody Miller approached them after they responded to a Sept. 26, 2010, fire in rural Santa Margarita and told them he was involved in a murder.

Miller is one of five people charged in the death of Myers, a 15-year-old Santa Maria teen whose partially burned remains were later found at that site.

Attorneys for Ty Michael Hill, one of Miller’s co-defendants, filed a motion to suppress some of Miller’s statements, saying they were not legally admissible.

Miller’s comments were made before police informed him that he had a right not to incriminate himself. Yet, the prosecution alleged that conversations with first responders weren’t the same as interrogations – and that the first responders who asked questions were merely trying to get information related to their jobs.

Miller’s statements not only broke the case but also led to the arrest of the other defendants, which include Frank Jacob York and his mother, Rhonda Mae Wisto.

While Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera said he will permit a jury to hear Miller’s statements made to first responders, he suggested some statements Miller later made while speaking with a detective at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center might not be admissible.

Attorneys will argue that issue Jan. 7.

During Monday’s hearing, Deputy District Attorney Tim Covello said Miller gave “a flood of statements.” And although Miller said he was forced to participate in the crime, duress is not a defense for murder in California, Covello added.

Bill McLennan, one of Hill’s attorneys, said Miller’s statements were self-serving and “completely at odds” with statements made by another defendant, Jason Adam Greenwell.

While speaking about Hill, Covello said there is a “wider conspiracy” in the case that will explain the defendants’ actions. He did not elaborate.

During a previous court hearing, a witness testified that the group believed Myers was a police informant.

A gag order exists in the case, which will go to trial in February.

 

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