Nov
25
2017
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Police

Alleged killers’ rights were violated, attorneys state

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Judges in the upcoming murder trial of the alleged killers of Yellow Springs roofer Skip Brown and his friend and neighbor Sherri Mendenhall must first decide whether critical evidence should be allowed.

Specifically, the defense attorney for Dustin Merrick, 26, one of the two brothers charged with the killings, recently argued that the gun allegedly used for the crime should not be allowed as evidence because Merrick’s Constitutional rights had been violated when investigators seized the weapon. The gun, a 9 mm handgun, had been seized by authorities from Merrick’s home on Jan. 20 after Merrick voluntarily showed police the weapon, which, police say, matched the ammunition found at the crime scene and had several bullets missing.

And the attorney for the second brother, Bret Merrick, 24, asserted that his client’s Constitutional rights had been violated when he was not properly informed of his rights by police before being interviewed by investigators. 

The attorneys made the arguments in briefs filed for a July 13 pre-trial hearing in the case in Judge Michael Buckwalter’s Greene County Court of Common Pleas courtroom in Xenia, according to a July 25 article in the Dayton Daily News.

The decision regarding whether to allow evidence about the gun is expected to be made by Judge  Buckwalter no earlier than September, according to Defense Attorney Gregory Meyers in an interview this week.

Meyers, of the Ohio Public Defender office in Columbus, declined to comment on the case. 

The Merrick brothers are both accused of the killings of Brown and Mendenhall, who were found shot to death Jan. 15 at their East Enon Road apartments. The brothers are the stepsons of Skip Brown’s brother, Dave Brown, and Dustin Merrick was a former employee of Skip Brown who described himself as Brown’s “right-hand man.” Both men’s charges include death penalty specifications, which means they could be eligible for the death penalty if found guilty.

The trial is currently scheduled for Nov. 6 in the Greene County Court of Common Pleas in Xenia. The final pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 29.

According to the motion filed by Attorney Meyers, on Jan. 20 investigators visited Dustin Merrick in his home, where they say it became clear that he owned several weapons. While he showed police the handgun, he did not allow them to take it with them, but they did so anyway, citing “exigent cirumstances.” Exigent circumstances means an emergency situation in which a reasonable person believes that an action must be taken to either avoid harm or to avoid the destruction of evidence, according to the Cornell University School of Law’s Legal Information Institute at http://www.law.cornell.edu.

However, according to Meyer’s motion filed in the court recently, “law enforcement officers cannot utter ‘exigent circumstances’ to magically make their Constitutional duties vanish. The state bears a heavy burden to prove with a specific, articulable facts that the circumstances in this case constitutionally justified a warrantless seizure.”

   The attorney for Bret Merrick, Dennis Lieberman of Dayton, has also filed a motion that his client’s rights had been violated. Specifically, he said Bret Merrick had made potentially incriminating statements during a six-hour interview on Jan. 24, without having been advised of his Constitutional rights.

“Any incriminating statements of defendants were involuntary and made without properly being advised of his constitutional rights,” the defense attorney’s motion states. 

Lieberman did not respond to a call seeking comment this week. The decision regarding Bret Merrick will be made by Judge Stephen Wolaver.

The great-grandson of well-known photographer Axel Bahnsen, Skip Brown, who spent part of his childhood in Yellow Springs, was a well-known Yellow Springs resident and businessman who had created a gallery at his East Enon residence to showcase his great-grandfather’s work. Mendenhall had recently moved to the Yellow Springs area, after a longtime friendship with Brown.

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Alleged killers’ rights were violated, attorneys state

by Diane Chiddister