Johns Talked To Inmates About Mechels Case
July 14, 2010, 5:50 PM
PARKER, SD -
Conversations over jailhouse card games may offer more information into the shooting death of a Turner County Deputy. Twenty-one-year-old Ethan Johns is accused of murdering Deputy Chad Mechels last year at a rural Marion farmhouse.
But after his arrest, investigators say Johns talked about the case with at least two inmates at the Minnehaha County jail.
And Wednesday, his attorneys argued those statements shouldn't be allowed at trial.
Johns walked into the Turner County Courthouse Wednesday and came face to face with the man he had talked with while inside the Minnehaha County Jail.
David Walls shared a cell with Johns and testified Wednesday that he talked with Johns on several occasions about the shooting of Mechels.
Walls didn't reveal Wednesday what Johns said, but Johns' attorney, Sid Strange, argued his client's Miranda rights were violated because Walls had worked as a prison snitch for investigators before.
Strange says Walls signed an agreement to wear a wire and gather information in a murder-for-hire case in the state penitentiary. When Walls was done with that case, he was moved to the Minnehaha County Jail for his safety and crossed paths with Ethan Johns. But that's also where Strange says Walls collected information for investigators on more than a half dozen cases, including talking with Johns. And since Walls had worked for the state before, Strange says he should have given Johns his Miranda warning before they talked.
Prosecutors disagreed, saying they only used Walls as informant in that one case in the penitentiary and never asked him to talk with Johns or gather information on any other cases from inside the Minnehaha County Jail. Wednesday in court, Walls admitted that was the case.
Now, the judge will have to decide whether Johns' conversation with Walls can be used against him at trial.
Wednesday was the first of a two day motions hearing. Johns faces the death penalty if convicted, so he's also asking the judge to examine the whether the state's death penalty laws are constitutional. The trial is scheduled to begin August 23.
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