Downs’ attorneys question investigation on the second day of hearings

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 5:09 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Tuesday saw the second day of a week of evidentiary hearings for the murder case against Steven Downs. Downs was arrested and charged with the murder of Sophie Sergie in 2019. Sergie was found raped, stabbed and shot in a University of Alaska Fairbanks Bathroom in 1993.

Down’s lead defense attorney Jim Howaniec spent much of the day questioning lead Alaska State Trooper cold case investigator Randy McPherron about the history of the investigation and how they handled gathering evidence.

Howaniec brought up inaccuracies that were used in the affidavits presented to judges to receive search warrants.

“We are also dealing with issues about whether the search warrants in this case were appropriate and whether they had sufficient probable cause to require Mr. Downs to submit to DNA and fingerprint testing,” Howaniec said in an interview after the hearings finished for the day.

He also questioned McPherrson on why Downs was not given an attorney, “There are a lot of constitutional and evidentiary issues involved in this case. Today we dealt with Miranda issues about our client’s right to an attorney.”

Howaniec read transcripts from when Downs was interrogated where he repeatedly asked for an attorney. McPherron said the reason they kept questioning him was because he kept engaging with them.

We asked State Prosecutor Jenna Grunstein for an interview but she declined saying she does not speak about ongoing litigation.

The defense has filed 11 motions, and nine of those were scheduled to be litigated this week; however, Howaniec said they will likely not finish litigation by the end of the week and have to reschedule for later in the year.

On Wednesday Judge Thomas Temple is expected to hear from additional witnesses as some of the remaining motions are litigated.

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