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Judge won't allow defendant's statement in Pa. homicide trial

June 07, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge John R. Walker ruled Wednesday that a statement Timothy Ross made to police cannot be used by the prosecution in his criminal homicide trial.

According to testimony at the suppression hearing, Ross was being questioned in a homicide case unrelated to his own when he made a statement to Pennsylvania State Police officers at the county prison on March 27.

Ross, 26, of Chambersburg, is charged with the March 1, 1999, shooting death of Drake Luckett, 34, of Chambersburg, in a downtown bar.

Trooper James Graham said he was at the prison to interview Ross and other inmates about any possible statements made by two other prisoners. Those two men were being held for trial in the killing of an Adams County couple.

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Graham said he was accompanied by an officer from the Chambersburg State Police barracks. During the interview Graham said the other officer "played on Mr. Ross' sympathy in that the people killed in Adams County were elderly and his case was different than what we were investigating."

Graham said Ross told them the shooting he is charged with "was in self-defense."

Walker called a sidebar conference with the defense and prosecution attorneys, then said the statement was inadmissible.

"Once you mentioned Mr. Ross's charges you should have advised him of his Miranda warnings," Walker said.

Ross should have been read his rights "even in the context of comparing it (his case) to the crime they were investigating," Walker said.

He was charged by Chambersburg police the following day.

Ross's jury trial is scheduled to begin Monday, June 12.

Earlier this year Walker ruled at another suppression hearing that statements Ross allegedly made to three inmates were admissible at trial. Walker ruled the inmates offered the information to police voluntarily.

Later Wednesday the court took depositions in Ross' case from two brothers who found a jacket in a vacant lot a few blocks from Dave's Tavern where the shooting happened. The prosecution alleges the jacket is the same one Ross was wearing when Luckett was shot in the chest.

The brothers, ages 12 and 9, testified they were playing kickball in the lot when they found the jacket. "When I saw the bullets fall out, I picked them up and put them in the pocket," the older boy said.

The boy said he gave the jacket to a neighbor who called police. A handgun was later found in the lot, police records said.

Depositions were taken because the boys will not be in the area next week, according to Assistant District Attorney David Rahauser.

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