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Lawyers say Hall's statements should be suppressed

March 14, 2001

Lawyers say Hall's statements should be suppressed



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Lawyers for a Greencastle, Pa., woman who faces charges in the 1985 disappearance of her husband say some incriminating statements she made should be suppressed because they were unlawfully gained in an illegal interrogation in 1994.

"Our client believes she was placed in a position to elicit incriminating statements. Under law, Miranda rights are required," said Carol Redding, co-counsel for Joan Snyder Hall.

Hall, 57, of 12850 Grant Shook Road, is charged with criminal conspiracy and criminal homicide in connection with the disappearance of her former husband, Melvin Snyder, on May 25, 1985.

Co-defendant Ronald W. Harshman, 51, of 11807 Clearview Road, is charged with the first-degree murder of Snyder.

Defense counsel Patrick Redding is challenging four statements Hall made in four interviews with Pennsylvania State Police in May 1994.

After two days of testimony, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carol Van Horn gave the defense until the end of the month to file written briefs on their arguments and District Attorney Jack Nelson a week to respond.

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Van Horn, who continued Hall's case until the May trial term Tuesday, will make her decision about the statements prior to the start of the term on May 14.

Pennsylvania State Police troopers testified they afforded Hall breaks and food during questioning in 1994 and repeatedly told her she was not under arrest and was free to leave. The interviews lasted seven hours in some cases.

The defense paints a different picture, saying Hall was confined in a small office and was not allowed to leave it and was not offered meals while the troopers took dinner breaks.

"They told me I wasn't leaving until they were done with me, so I felt trapped and alone. They were harassing me into making statements that weren't true," Hall said.

The defense also argues Hall should have been read her Miranda rights before every period of questioning began, not only hours later when troopers tape-recorded her statements.

But the District Attorney's office said Hall said on tape she knew she was free to leave, was there on her own free will and knew she could have an attorney present.

Nelson questioned why Hall returned for three subsequent interviews in May 1994 if she felt trapped or coerced into making false statements.

"I wanted to make clear" some of the things she said in earlier meetings, Hall said.

Both Hall and Harshman are free on bail. Harshman's case has also been continued until May.

According to court records, Harshman and Snyder worked at Grove Manufacturing and knew each other socially. In May 1984, Snyder and Harshman's wife began an affair.

State Police allege Snyder, then 42, was shot and killed in his Antrim Township barn one year later.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Hall told police she told Harshman her husband could be found unarmed in the barn the morning he disappeared. She also told police she saw Snyder's body in Harshman's basement the next day.

Snyder's body has never been found and neither has the alleged murder weapon, a .25-caliber pistol Harshman allegedly bought two months before the disappearance.

A break in the case came July 15, 1999, when State Police went to Harshman's former home at 4230 Buchanan Trail West in Greencastle and found a spent .25-caliber shell casing about an inch under the ground.

A ballistics expert compared that with a casing found in Snyder's barn shortly after he disappeared and determined both had been fired from the same gun, according to the affidavit.

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