Pasco murder suspect's rights violated by search of cell, attorney claims

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldMay 10, 2013 

PASCO -- Lawyers for a Pasco woman accused of fatally shooting her mother are claiming their client's rights were violated when Franklin County jail staff took legal documents from her cell during a search.

Tashia Stuart's defense team cross-examined seven members of the jail staff Friday during a hearing in Franklin County Superior Court.

The jail staffers testified for almost three hours that they never read or discussed Stuart's legal documents, which were taken during the March 30 search.

Stuart, 39, is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder for allegedly shooting her 58-year-old mother, Judy Hebert, during an argument over money in March 2011. She also is charged with attempting to kill her mother 11 days before she was shot by dropping a 32-pound bin on her head.

Stuart's attorney, Robert Thompson, filed a motion last month to have the charges dropped because of the paperwork incident.

The staffers testified they found "massive amounts of unauthorized contraband" in Stuart's cell, including nail clippers, a disposable razor, hair nets, books and scriptures held up on the wall by toothpaste. The legal paperwork was seized with the contraband.

Stuart wrote in a motion that the paperwork had part of her defense strategy on it, as well as questions she was preparing for her father, Rolfe Hebert, and ex-husband Charles Adney. The materials, which included a legal pad, "disappeared" and have not been returned.

Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said Stuart's defense team will have to prove the paperwork was read and communicated to prosecutors. He doesn't believe, based on Friday's testimony, that it was ever read or discussed, he added.

Another of Stuart's attorneys, Peter Connick, wrote in his court documents that jail staff refuse to return Stuart's paperwork because it's been given to prosecutors, lost or destroyed.

Arguments on the motion will continue. Another hearing in front of Franklin Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell will be scheduled next week. Stuart's trial is scheduled for May 28.

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