A preliminary hearing for Brian Leigh Dripps, the man accused of raping and murdering Angie Dodge in 1996, took a new turn Friday when the defense attorney argued his client was not properly Mirandized.
Defense Attorney Jim Archibald questioned Idaho Falls Police Department Detective Sage Albright about how he informed Dripps of his Miranda rights. According to Albright, the detectives did not read Dripps his rights but instead presented him with a waiver that he signed.
Archibald said the detectives placed the paper describing Miranda Rights in front of Dripps and told him: "This is just protocol." According to Archibald, Dripps looked at the paper for a few seconds before signing it and returning it to the detectives, who placed it in a binder.
Archibald motioned for Albright’s testimony to be suppressed. Bonneville County Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Dewey presented the signed waiver to Albright, who confirmed he saw Dripps write his signature.
Albright said Dripps appeared to be capable of reading the Miranda waiver on his own and that it was not necessary to read it aloud.
“It seemed redundant to read him something he was capable of reading himself,” Albright said.
Miranda rights were established in 1966 after the United States Supreme Court ruled law enforcement must warn a suspect being detained that they have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney during questioning and the right to be appointed an attorney if they are indigent.
Magistrate Judge Andrew Woolf ruled that for the purpose of the preliminary hearing the waiver was permissible. He bound Dripps over to District Court.
Archibald said he intends to file a motion to suppress Dripps' statements to police, including his confession, on the grounds that his client could not have properly understood his rights after looking at the form for a few seconds.
University of Idaho College of Law Professor Aliza Cover told the Post Register that the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to show the defendant was properly read their rights and understood them before signing a waiver.
“If the defendant skimmed the warnings, was never read them aloud, was told that signing was just a formality, and did not otherwise show any understanding of his rights, there could be a strong argument that he didn’t validly waive his rights and his statements would be inadmissible for most purposes,” Cover wrote in an email.
Archibald also asked if his client requested a lawyer. Albright testified that Dripps mentioned a lawyer twice during the interview, but did not explicitly request one. Dewey stated law enforcement officers are not required to end an interview unless the suspect unequivocally requests an attorney.
Dripps did say he “needed a lawyer” at one point. Albright said they stopped asking questions then, but continued the interview when Dripps began talking again.
“Mr. Dripps continued to speak after he made that statement without any questions or prodding from us,” Albright said.
Dripps told detectives they had him “dead to rights” on the DNA evidence. Most of the interview Albright testified to had previously been revealed in the probable cause affidavit, including that Dripps told police he went to the house planning to rape Dodge but not kill her.
Other witnesses testified about the forensic evidence and how DNA evidence was collected at the scene of Dodge’s murder, how it was stored, transported and analyzed, establishing the chain of custody. Detective Jeffrey Pratt and former Idaho State Police Forensic Scientist Susan Williamson testified that they collected hairs from Dodge’s torso, chin and fingers.
Gary Ellwein, a retired doctor who examined Dodge’s body, testified about the wounds that caused her death, some of them in gruesome detail. Dodge suffered multiple stab wounds, including on her hands, to her chest and across her neck.
Dewey asked Ellwein what he determined was the cause and manner of Dodge’s death.
Ellwein testified she bled to death as a result of a murder.
Pamela Marcum, a retired researcher from the Idaho State Forensic Lab and a specialist in serology, testified that, if properly preserved in dry and cool environments, the DNA evidence would not have decayed in the 23 years since Dodge was killed. Marcum also confirmed that a fluid collected from Dodge’s inner thigh was semen.
Cyndi Hall, the Lab Improvement Manager for Idaho State Police, testified about the DNA tests that matched Dripps to the scene.
According to Hall, the chance of the recovered semen sample belonging to someone other than Dripps is less than one in three quintillion.
Hall also tested a swab of Dripps’ DNA against the hairs and other samples recovered, finding matches with similarly large odds.
Archibald questioned the witnesses about their previous testimony in the trial for Tapp. Pratt, Ellwein, Williamson and Marcum said their statements would match those made 22 years ago. He also asked Hall if a private investigator would be allowed to examine the same evidence she did, to which Hall said yes.
Dripps' district arraignment is scheduled for 8:10 a.m. Sept. 10 in Bonneville County Courthouse before District Judge Dane Watkins Jr.
Dripps has been charged with first-degree murder, punishable with a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to a life sentence, and rape, punishable with a minimum of one year in prison and up to life. Dewey stated in court the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office intends to retain the right to pursue the death penalty but has not made a final decision.