PASCO -- An estranged Pasco couple accused of conspiring to kill a Pasco woman were in court Friday to see whether statements they made to police can be introduced at their trials.
Tashia L. Stuart, 38, is charged with shooting her mother, Judy Hebert, on March 3, 2011, inside the Salmon Drive home they shared.
Stuart's estranged husband, Todd, 48, was arrested about 10 months later in California and charged with attempted murder for allegedly plotting to kill his mother-in-law less than a month before her death.
Judge Cameron Mitchell ruled Friday that Tashia Stuart was properly advised of her Miranda rights before she talked to Pasco police, but the judge has yet to rule in Todd Stuart's case.
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Prosecutor Shawn Sant and defense attorney Jeffery Robinson of Seattle are expected to make their final arguments at a hearing next week in Franklin County Superior Court.
Robinson argued that his client never waived his right to an attorney and asked for a lawyer, but Pasco police Detective Brad Gregory and Detective Sgt. Jeff Harpster continued to interrogate him.
Todd Stuart was arrested in January by U.S. marshals in Oakland, Calif. Gregory and Harpster went down to California for the arrest and to get a statement from Todd Stuart.
The interview was conducted at the Oakland police station and a video was recorded, the detectives said Friday.
Gregory said that when he informed Todd Stuart of his rights, Stuart said he had been a paralegal and said, "I think I should probably have a lawyer just to protect you and me," according to the transcripts and recording played in court Friday.
Gregory said he told Todd Stuart that it protects him and if he wanted a lawyer it would be up to him, but if he changed his mind he could talk to the detectives and tell them his side.
Gregory testified that he then explained the charge to Todd Stuart, who asked him about the extradition process. The interview continued for about an hour -- Stuart did take a break during that time -- and they talked about Stuart's time in the Navy and his relationship with Tashia Stuart and Hebert.
Gregory testified that because Todd Stuart continued to talk to him, he was OK proceeding without an attorney until Stuart specifically asked for a lawyer.
Todd Stuart at some point said, "OK, I would like to talk to a lawyer," Gregory said, and that's when he ended the interview.
Robinson said there was no doubt in Todd Stuart's voice at the start when he said he should probably have a lawyer, but Gregory said when Stuart said probably, he took that to mean Stuart was considering it, not asking for one.
When Todd Stuart later asked for an attorney, it was clear and he stopped the interview, the detective said.
Sgt. Harpster also testified that he didn't think Todd Stuart asked for an attorney at the start, just simply was questioning if he should get one. Harpster said Stuart was told the detectives can't make that decision for him and Stuart continued to talk to them.
Robinson asked why they didn't simply ask "Mr. Stuart, do you want a lawyer or not?"
"It didn't enter my mind at that point," Harpster said.
Robinson contended that the detectives were trying to push Stuart to talk to them, but Harpster said Todd Stuart didn't have to talk to him at all if he didn't want to.
In Tashia Stuart's case, Officer Dean Perry said she initially was detained in the back of his patrol car while officers secured the house and tried to determine what happened. All he knew was the first officer at the scene had called for backup after finding Hebert shot inside the house, he said.
Perry said he didn't know if Tashia Stuart was a victim or suspect in the case, but when he went to talk to her he read her the Miranda rights because she was handcuffed in the back of the patrol car and clearly not free to leave.
Defense attorney Peter Connick of Seattle argued that officers didn't have probable cause to arrest Tashia Stuart so her statements should be suppressed because the arrest was unconstitutional. Stuart also is represented by Pasco attorney Bob Thompson.
Sant said the purpose of Friday's hearing was to determine if the rights were read properly, which he contends they were.
Mitchell agreed with Sant and said Tashia Stuart was properly advised of her constitutional rights. He said the defense has a right to file a motion to dismiss the case based on the belief that police didn't have cause to detain Stuart, but that would have to be argued at another hearing.
Also Friday, defense attorneys agreed to allow Tashia Stuart to provide another saliva sample to compare with previous DNA samples collected from evidence in the case.
Tashia Stuart is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances for Hebert's death and faces an Oct. 24 trial. She has claimed self-defense, saying she shot Hebert after Hebert came at her with an ax.
Todd Stuart's trial is to start Sept. 10. He's accused of conspiring with Tashia Stuart to kill Hebert by dropping an 18-gallon bin of books on the older woman's head in February 2011. Todd Stuart allegedly got Hebert to stand in a certain spot in the garage, while Tashia Stuart hid in the rafters to push the bin.