Suspected serial killer's trial pushed back

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 1:28am

Suspected serial killer Bruce Mendenhall will be in court Monday afternoon, but his trial scheduled to start the same day has been pushed back as attorneys continue to argue over motions before Judge Steven Dozier, including a defense motion to suppress a central piece of the prosecution’s case.

Mendenhall, who allegedly attempted to have five people killed while he was incarcerated on charges stemming from the 2007 murder of Sara Hulbert, is scheduled to face a trial by jury on murder for hire charges.

A new start date for the trial has not been scheduled.

Attorneys for the alleged killer argue Mendenhall’s rights were violated when jailhouse informant Roy McLaughlin wore a wire and recorded conversations that led to the solicitation of murder charges.

Between April 28 and May 29 2008, McLaughlin and Mendenhall engaged in a series of conversations in which the former offered to kill three witnesses for Mendenhall, Laurie Young, Richie Kiem and David Powell.

Public Defender Dawn Deaner argues that those conversations violated her client’s constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination and to counsel. According to the motion to suppress, the defense says when Mendenhall asked for an attorney in his first interview with police in July 2007, he “was entitled to presume that so long as he remained in custody, his right to legal counsel would be honored during any conversations he might thereafter have with a State agent.”

But by offering to wear a wire and question Mendenhall, McLaughlin “served as an agent of the State, and his conversations with Mr. Mendenhall constituted ‘interrogation,’” the motion states. The defense argues that because no counsel was present, those conversations should be suppressed.

Last week, Doizer ruled against a defense motion to sequester the jury during the trial, arguing the process would take too much time. He did grant a motion to allow for individual questioning of each potential jury in order to determine whether or not an individual has a prejudicial familiarity with the case.

In addition to the Hulbert murder, Mendenhall also faces charges related to the murders of four women in three other states.