The prosecution will be allowed to use cell phone text messages as evidence during Adam Longoria’s murder trial, Barton County District Judge Hannelore Kitts ruled Thursday.
In the capital murder case, defense attorneys argued that text exchanges that allegedly occurred between Longoria and slain teenager Alicia DeBolt are hearsay and should not be admitted. "We believe they are inadmissible," said Jeffrey Wicks with the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit.
Special Assistant Attorney General Kevin O’Connor argued the text exchanges should be admissible. "It is evidence of how they knew each other, and the intent of the defendant," he said. "We plan to introduce evidence that (the texts) came from her phone."
O’Connor also pointed out that text messages were admitted as evidence at Longoria’s preliminary hearing.
"We’re going to have a lot of text messages," Wicks said. "We haven’t touched the tip of the iceberg."
In another issue dealing with hearsay evidence, Wicks said the defense does not object to Alicia DeBolt’s mother testifying that Alicia said she was leaving the house to go to a party the night she disappeared, on Aug. 20, 2010. Her burned body was found four days later at a Venture Corp. asphalt plant near Dundee where Longoria worked.
During the morning proceedings, Kitts also ruled that a recording of an interview between Longoria and Great Bend Police Detective Terry Millard is inadmissible, but said Millard can testify about the interview. At issue was the poor quality of the audio recording.
The judge also ruled that 17 photos that the state may want to enter as evidence are acceptable if the proper foundation is laid for their introduction. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Bauch repeated a courtroom adage, "gruesome crimes result in gruesome photos," but argued the chosen photos are relevant to the case. The photos were taken at the crime scene and at the autopsy.
Defense attorney Tim Frieden said they did not object to "photo number 3," but that other photos should be excluded. "The display of these photos would inflame the passions and prejudices of the jury," he argued.
Frieden listed six pairs of photos he argued were redundant. Bauch explained the purpose of various photos. For example, the coroner who performed the autopsy will be asked to testify if certain photos are an accurate representation of what he saw. A similar photo from the crime scene would not work, because the coroner was not at the crime scene, Bauch said.
Kitts also ruled Thursday that witnesses will be sequestered during the trial. They won’t be allowed to listen to each others’ testimony or discuss the case with each other. However, they do not have to be physically separated as requested by the defense, the judge said.
O’Connor called one witness to testify during arguments Thursday. Kelly Ralston, Special Agent in Charge with the Great Bend field office of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, explained how he came to conduct a four-hour interview of Longoria on Aug. 30, 2010. Longoria was in the Barton County Jail when he submitted an inmate request form seeking the interview, Ralston said. They reviewed Longoria’s so-called Miranda rights and signed a form to that effect before discussing the case.
The content of that interview is one of the items the state hopes to admit and the defense hopes to suppress at the trial, and is one of the matters on the list of a defense motion to close proceedings. Kitts has a copy of the recording and said she will review it before making a decision on its admissibility.