Murder case motions
A judge did not rule Monday on whether conversations accused murderer Mark F. Stevens had with a confidential informant can be included in his trial, saying more testimony is needed.
More than five hours of testimony was given in Washington County Common Pleas Court Monday.
Acting Judge Julie Selmon of Monroe County did rule in favor of a handful of motions that involved jury selection, but Selmon scheduled testimony to resume next Monday about conversations that eventually elicited a confession from Stevens, 48, of 2385 Bells Run Road, Newport Township, about the 2008 murder of his neighbor, 42-year-old Patrick Arnold.
“(Stevens) was provided alcohol. There were promises of money,” said Stevens’ attorney Ray Smith, summing up some of his objections to the conversations with the informant.
The informant, 46-year-old James Corder, of Macksburg, was an inmate at the Washington County Jail at the same time Stevens was serving time on an unrelated charge.
Former Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputy Dana Spencer testified Monday that he first approached Corder about gleaning information from Stevens after another inmate, Timothy Seevers, approached Spencer with information that Stevens had confessed to Corder.
Corder’s first conversations with Stevens took place in jail in April 2010 but no information of value was gained. Corder next worked with officers in July 2012, gaining a furlough from a jail sentence on drug trafficking charges to gain Stevens’ trust and elicit more information.
Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider argued that the issue at hand is one of Miranda rights (the right to remain silent and have legal representation).
“Stevens’ Miranda rights were never violated because he was never in custody for the crime,” he said.
But Smith argued the issue was that of whether or not the confession was voluntary. It was not, he said, because Corder plied Stevens with alcohol and promised to include Stevens in an illegal money-making scheme involving hiding guns.
Detective Bruce Schuck of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office testified that the sheriff’s office knew of the beer drinking and participated in the gun hiding ploy and that both were a necessary means of allowing Corder to gain Stevens’ trust.
“The purpose was to set up a trust relationship. I made him believe I was part of a criminal organization,” testified Schuck, who posed on the phone to Stevens as Corder’s friend who needed some guns hidden.
Schuck also testified that the sheriff’s office did not object to Corder buying Stevens beer or drinking with him, but had advised Corder to cut off conversations if Stevens appeared to be intoxicated. The office had asked Corder to cease talk of devil worship, he testified.
When Stevens eventually confessed to the crime, after multiple occasions of denial, he admits to it and immediately inquires if he will receive money for the admission, argued Smith.
Schuck brought up details that officers have argued Stevens could not possibly know unless he was guilty, including that Arnold was wearing an orange shirt the day of his death. Schuck also argued that Stevens knew Arnold had been shot in the chest and was found lying face down, facts that were not common knowledge.
But Smith brought up inconsistencies where Stevens had also said Arnold was wearing a white shirt and was lying on his side when found.
“When he finally says something that matches the facts, at that point you’re satisfied?” asked Smith.
Schuck said the accuracies added up to enough information to tie Stevens to the scene.
The only other person to testify Monday was sheriff’s office Det. Scott Parks.
Among the motions Selmon agreed to Monday was a motion for jury view, meaning jurors will be taken to view the scene of the crime; a motion for jury individual voir dire, meaning potential jurors can be questioned individually away from other potential jurors; and a motion for jury questionnaires, meaning potential jurors will receive a mailed list of questions to answer and return.
Additionally, Selmon approved a jury selection process that will feature the questioning of 75 potential jurors each day for three days.
Stevens’ trial for murder and tampering with evidence is scheduled for July 15.