Attorney wants statements out for murder trial

February 16, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The attorney for a man charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his estranged wife wants his client's statements to police ruled inadmissible for trial.

William E. Cleary, 30, of Chambersburg is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Teresa Jean Cleary, 33, who was killed outside her Fayetteville, Pa., home on July 6, 2002. The killing was witnessed by several people, according to Pennsylvania State Police and court records.

On Thursday, Judge John R. Walker heard testimony in a pre-trial hearing to determine if statements Cleary made at the scene and at Chambersburg Hospital the same day are admissible in court.


Police arrived within minutes of the stabbing to find William Cleary beside Teresa Cleary, who had a knife sticking in her neck, Trooper Aaron Martin said. He testified at the hearing that he asked William Cleary who stabbed her.

"I did," McCleary said, according to Martin's testimony. Cleary gave the same response when asked who inflicted knife wounds to his neck, Martin testified.

On cross-examination by Public Defender Michael Toms, Martin said Cleary had not been given a Miranda warning when the questions were asked.

"Mr. Cleary answered every question appropriately and in detail," Cpl. George Cronin testified of a taped hospital interview. He testified Cleary did not seem to be sedated, but appeared to be experiencing pain.

Two nurses who saw Cleary after surgery testified he seemed alert and oriented.

Dr. David Guthrie testified he treated Cleary for two lacerations on the left side of his neck and a third stab wound he described as being on the right back side of his neck that penetrated to the spine.

Guthrie testified his records showed Cleary was given several doses of an opiate-based painkiller during and after surgery, along with a general anesthetic and other drugs. Guthrie testified he believed several doses were given because the drug's effect is "fairly short-lived."

The last dose was given at 3:05 p.m. and police began the interview shortly before 4 p.m., Toms said.

"Would you let him sign a will at 4 p.m.?" Toms asked.

Before Guthrie could answer, Walker asked the surgeon if Cleary would "be able to do complex math, assuming he could do it before?"

"Yes," Guthrie said.

Dr. Neil Blumberg, a forensic psychiatrist, testified for the defense, according to Toms.

"It was his opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that Cleary was suffering from opiate intoxication," Toms said Sunday.

"There's a difference between being able to recall something ... and understanding that you have a legal right not to," Toms said of the suppression issue.

The tape was not played in court. Toms said Walker, Assistant District Attorney Tim Wilmot and he would listen to it in Walker's chambers this week.

Toms said the defense and prosecution have to submit briefs over the next four weeks and he expects the case to be continued from the March trial term to at least May.

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