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Judge dismisses indictment against Alaska homicide defendant

Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 2:35 PM AKST
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An Alaska judge dismissed an indictment against a homicide defendant and ruled statements he made cannot be used in court.

AP reports Judge Gregory Heath ruled the statements came after Austin Barrett invoked his right to remain silent during an investigation into the killing of David Grunwald.

Juries convicted Erick Almandinger, Dominic Johnson and Bradley Renfro of first-degree murder in the November 2016 shooting death of the 16-year-old in Palmer.

Renfro and Almandinger named Barrett, 22, as the person who pulled the trigger.

Heath ruled statements Barrett made before his arrest cannot be used as evidence, while also dismissing the indictment because the same interview was used at a grand jury hearing.

Defense attorney Craig Howard argued Barrett invoked his right to stay silent when he told Alaska State Troopers he was going to “plead the fifth.”

Troopers said Barrett continued to talk with them after that statement.

Barrett told investigators during the interviews that he was in the trailer where Grunwald was pistol-whipped and at the site where he was shot with a 9mm handgun, authorities said.

Heath ruled all statements made after Barrett said he was going to “plead the fifth” will be suppressed.

The judge also ruled that without those statements, there was little evidence for the grand jury to indict Barrett on seven charges, including first-degree murder.

“Grand jury was not presented with physical or forensic evidence, neutral witness testimony, or social media or phone evidence to support a finding of probable cause that Defendant was involved in the murder of David Grunwald,” Heath wrote in the ruling.

Barrett is expected to remain in custody until a new indictment is filed.

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