The public defender representing a Texarkana man accused of murdering his stepfather and burning his body in the trunk of the victim's abandoned car, has given formal notice seeking to have his client's statements to law enforcement officers made prior to his arrest thrown out because they were allegedly obtained illegally.
The public defender representing a Texarkana man accused of murdering his stepfather and burning his body in the trunk of the victim's abandoned car, has given formal notice seeking to have his client's statements to law enforcement officers made prior to his arrest thrown out because they were allegedly obtained illegally. Eighth Judicial District-North Public Defender Danny Rodgers filed motions to suppress statements and to prohibit admission of irrelevant evidence in Hempstead County Circuit Court in December in behalf of Don Airsman, Jr., 30, of Texarkana. Airsman was extradited from Dunklin County, Mo., in May, 2012, from his hometown of Hornersville, Mo., where he had allegedly fled to the home of his biological father after what authorities allege was the murder of his stepfather, William Allen Jones, 60, of Saratoga, in April, 2012. The charges against Airsman stem, in part, from evidence given by a material witness, who has remained unnamed. The witness has given evidence which alleges that Airsman shot Jones at the elderly man's home in Saratoga, then put his body into the trunk of Jones' Honda, and drove it to Bowie County, Texas, where Airsman allegedly covered the vehicle with gasoline and set it ablaze. But, Rodgers' filing argues that Airsman's arrest is also based upon statements he allegedly made to law enforcement officers while in their custody, but after he had repeatedly requested representation by an attorney. Rogers contends that Airsman was arrested at his biological father's residents without presentment of an arrest warrant or probable cause finding by any court at the request of the Hempstead County Sheriff's Office. Rodgers contends that after Airsman's arrest in Dunklin County, Mo., Airsman immediately “invoked his right to an attorney to Dunklin County officers and other authorities, but was never afforded an attorney.” He argues that Airsman was booked into jail in Missouri about 7 p.m. on April 27, 2012, and that subsequently, “...in an effort to cure the illegal arrest, Hempstead County Sheriff's Captain Frank McJunkins executed an Affidavit for Warrant of Arrest before Circuit Judge Wm. Randall Wright, who made a determination of probable cause and issued a Warrant of Arrest...” Rodgers further alleges that McJunkins had a rights statement executed on April 29 by Airsman in which he invoked his right to an attorney, and a video record of a conversation between McJunkins and Airsman demonstrates that McJunkins attempted to interrogate Airsman without an attorney present. “During this attempted interrogation the Defendant again invoked his right to an attorney in the presence of Captain McJunkins, and others,” the filing contends. Rodgers argues that Airsman was held in custody in Missouri without benefit of an attorney and was not given a first judicial appearance until May 1, 2012, when he was taken before a Missouri judge for an extradition hearing, “...still not having been afforded an attorney to consult.” In all, Rodgers contends that Airsman was held in custody in Missouri and Arkansas for five days without having access to an attorney, and was interrogated during that period until an “incriminating incustodial statement” was obtained on the afternoon of May 2, 2012. He argues that Airsman was given a first appearance in Arkansas the following day. As a result, Rodgers contends that the court relied upon the previous probable cause determination to proceed in Airsman's initial Arkansas appearance. Consequently, Rodgers is seeking to have all statements made by Airsman during those six days excluded from the record under Rule 16.2 (a)3 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and 14th Amendments to the U. S. Constitution, as well as the precedents under Miranda v. Arizona (1966), and in Arkansas, Cook v. State (1981) and Duncan v. State (1987). Rodgers has also filed a motion to have all evidence concerning acts allegedly committed in Texas in connection with the death of Jones thrown out as irrelevant to the single issue of Airsman's defense, that the shooting death of Jones was committed justifiably. He argues that, “... only evidence as to the gunshot wounds and cause of death is relevant and, pursuant to Humphrey v. State..., if the first fatal gunshot wound was justified then any use of excessive force thereafter would not be relevant.” No orders of the court had been filed in connection with the motions at press time. Trial in the case is set for February 4.