PASCO — A defense attorney called a Pasco police detective's actions "odious" and "horrible" Tuesday because he listened to a recorded confidential jail conversation between the attorney and his murder suspect client.
The only remedy to the violation of the constitutional rights of Kurtis Robert Chapman is to dismiss charges against him, attorney Matt Rutt said.
"The only solution this court has because of the damage that has been done, because of a detective acting cavalier with the Constitution and taking the law into his own hands ... is dismissal of the case," Rutt told Franklin County Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson.
Matheson made no decision during Tuesday's hearing. He said he needed time to "give this the consideration it deserves," and wanted to review the court cases again that were cited by attorneys.
"It's certainly an important issue," Matheson said.
Chapman is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter for allegedly strangling his ex-girlfriend, Shenay Greenough, and killing her unborn baby.
The 19-year-old West Richland woman was reported missing May 8, and her body was found May 10 under the home of Chapman's father. Greenough was more than 30 weeks pregnant with a baby girl she planned to name Kyana Shenay. Chapman is not the baby's father.
Chapman had several family members and supporters in court Tuesday.
Greenough's mother, Christina Sullivan, was highly emotional throughout the hearing and at one point was overheard muttering, "You murdered my daughter." She broke down crying when the hearing was over and was consoled by Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe.
Rutt claims Chapman's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when Pasco police Detective William Parramore eavesdropped on a jail phone conversation between himself and Chapman. The call was at least 10 minutes long, Rutt said, adding that they discussed defense strategies and what expert witnesses may be called.
He said Chapman's rights further were violated when Parramore made a copy of the conversation and played it in the squad room at the Pasco police station. Another officer who was in the squad room said Parramore wanted to play it for Lowe because he thought Lowe would find it "amusing," Rutt said.
"He decided to take the law into his own hands, make a recording of it and share it with the world," Rutt said. "Detective Parramore is an experienced detective. This isn't a rookie cop that's right out of the academy. ... The bell can't be unrung. The toothpaste can't be put back in the tube."
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller, who was appointed as a special prosecutor to review the violation, acknowledged Parramore made a mistake but said it was made in "good faith."
He said Lowe had no knowledge of what was said in the recorded conversation, Parramore has been removed from the case and dismissal is not necessary.
Parramore, who interviewed Chapman in Pendleton when he was arrested and essentially confessed to the murder, could even be barred from testifying at trial, Miller said. Pasco police Capt. Jim Raymond also was at the interview in Pendleton, so he still could testify about the confession.
Miller also noted that if there was a concern about Lowe's knowledge, it won't be an issue after the first of the year when the newly elected prosecutor, Shawn Sant, takes office, or Miller could stay on as the special prosecutor.
He said Parramore's honest mistake can be remedied by sanctions short of dismissal.
"We've heard a lot of talk about not being able to unring the bell or not being able to put the toothpaste back in the tube," Miller said. "The toothpaste never got to the people who could use it. ... The toothpaste was destroyed."
Past cases where charges were dismissed for constitutional rights violations included incidents where an officer was dishonest or where officers intentionally recorded conversation in the attorney-client room at the jail and gave information to the prosecutor. A defendant brought the issue about the microphone in the room to the court and the court investigated without help from the sheriff or the prosecutor, Miller said.
"In this case, Detective Parramore is going to have to live with the fact that people are going to be questioning his actions in hindsight. He's made a mistake, but he has been painfully honest," Miller said.
Miller also noted that without the honesty of the Pasco officers or Lowe, the defense wouldn't have even known this incident occurred.
Miller acknowledged that Rutt made some good arguments that the case would be easier if Parramore had just made the recordings at the jail and not played it for other officer.
"I think it did compound the problem ... but it just shows he didn't think he was doing anything wrong," Miller said.
Rutt suggested that the new lead detective, Justin Greenhalgh, already was using the information from the recorded phone conversation where Rutt discussed a possible mental health defense to go back and re-interview witnesses about Chapman's mental state.
Miller countered that there's no factual basis for that allegation.
"It doesn't take a genius prosecutor, even I'm able to figure out that you need to look at the mental state of a defendant," Miller said. "That's just police 101 and prosecution 101."
Rutt, however, said the actions in this case are the "worst I've ever seen" and asked Judge Matheson to find there has been prejudice to Chapman and that the actions were "in bad faith, purposeful and deliberate."
"There's only one message that can be sent to the Pasco Police Department and Detective Parramore, and that's the charges should be dismissed," Rutt said. "We have to say 'Stop, this was really wrong.' "
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org