Craig Michael Wood moves to exclude confession that he killed Hailey Owens

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good morning:

I write today to update readers regarding Craig Michael Wood, 46, who is charged with kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield, MO. I have three new facts to report:

(1) He has new counsel who are experienced death penalty lawyers;

(2) Hailey Owens was sexually assaulted; and

(3) He confessed to police.

Wood has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday, April 24th. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether probable cause exists to support the charges.

The test for probable cause is whether the evidence introduced at the hearing would warrant a reasonable person to believe that the defendant committed the crimes charged. Judges rarely dismiss charges at preliminary hearings and I expect no deviation from that practice on Thursday. A finding of probable cause will permit the State to keep Wood in custody until a grand jury indicts him. The indictment will set forth the final set of charges.

Defense attorneys usually have not received any discovery before preliminary hearings, so they use them to discover information about the prosecution’s case and lock witnesses into their testimony.

Because child welfare records obtained pursuant to a state FOIA request by the News Leader reveal that Hailey Owens was sexually assaulted, I am expecting the defense will inquire into that subject matter.

I also expect the grand jury indictment will contain a sexual assault charge.

Although the prosecuting attorney, Dan Patterson, has not announced whether he will seek the death penalty, I do not believe there is any doubt whether he will do so. The case is too egregious not to seek it because, if a state is going to have a death penalty, it’s going to use it to execute people who kidnap, sexually assault and murder a child.

Because this will almost certainly be a death penalty case, the court has appointed Patrick J. Berrigan and Thomas Jaquinot to represent Wood. Berrigan and Jaquinot are death-penalty lawyers who work for the Capital Division of the Missouri Public Defenders Office. Berrigan has considerable experience handling death cases and an excellent reputation.

They have already done something unusual that suggests they are diligent and know what they are doing. Yesterday, they filed a motion to suppress (exclude) Wood’s statements to police. The motion is not unusual, but the timing certainly is. These motions are typically filed after indictment, but before trial. I have never seen a motion to suppress filed before indictment and scheduled to be considered at the preliminary hearing.

Do not be surprised if the judge declines to consider it on the ground that he is not a circuit court judge and lacks the authority to do so. If he does consider it, I doubt there is any chance he will grant it, assuming he wants to keep his job.

However, he may permit defense inquiry far beyond the permissible scope of inquiry in a normal preliminary hearing where the scope of inquiry is limited to whether probable cause exists. I suspect that is the real reason defense counsel filed the motion. If so, it was a brilliant move to not only broaden the scope of inquiry, but to lock police witnesses into their testimony about what Wood said and the circumstances that existed when he said it.

Defense counsel assert in the motion that Wood was drunk, drugged and mentally ill when police took him into custody, that they failed to advise him that he had a right to remain silent and refuse to answer their questions, that they ignored his request to consult with counsel before answering their questions and that they coerced him into providing a statement by promising they would go easy on him, if he cooperated and told them the truth.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the assertions are true, the statement would be inadmissible because it was involuntary and obtained in violation of the Miranda rule.

We have been watching Gerrie Nel, an excellent prosecutor, and now we are going to have an opportunity on Thursday to watch an excellent death penalty lawyer, Patrick Berrigan.

You will not want to miss this hearing, so please join us for the live stream on Thursday and check-in with us each day between now and then for updates and reports on other cases.

If you appreciate what we do and have not yet made a donation for this month, please do so today. You will not find more knowledgeable in depth no-nonsense coverage of legal matters anywhere else on the internet.

Thank you,


12 Responses to Craig Michael Wood moves to exclude confession that he killed Hailey Owens

  1. Don Berkowitz says:

    If the prosectors want to add additional charges in this case after the preliminary hearing, does the evidence for those charges have to be presented at the preliminary hearing on Thursday? For instance, does autopsy evidence have to be presented at the preliminary hearing in order for a grand jury to later indict on the sexual assault?

    • No.

      There are only 3 charges pending: premeditated murder, child kidnapping and armed criminal action.

      The prosecution has to introduce enough evidence to establish PC for each charge. If they fail to do so, the court will dismiss the applicable charge.

      If one or two charges are dismissed, the prosecution can still present their evidence to a grand jury and nothing would present the GJ from indicting him on the one or two charges if the GJ finds PC.

      Same is true if all 3 charges are dismissed at the PH.

      Difference is that the defendant would have to be released if all 3 pending charges are dismissed. As long as the judge finds PC to support at least 1 charge, he can continue to be held.

      The PH is basically a screening device for PC to determine if the defendant can continue to be held to answer to a charge or charges.

      Assuming the judge finds PC, the prosecution has to get a grand jury indictment within a specific period of time, usually 30 days.

      The GJ also decides whether PC supports the charges in the proposed indictment.

  2. Kelley Williams says:

    Do you know if investigators are looking into cold cases in relation to Wood?

  3. Malisha says:

    I understand that even without the confession, there’s so much evidence against him that he can’t get acquitted.

    • I suspect you are right even though there may also be some problems with the search.

      The inadmissibility of some of the evidence may not affect the outcome of the guilt phase, but it may affect the outcome of the penalty phase, if it results in residual doubt.

      Residual doubt is the gap between proof beyond a reasonable doubt and proof beyond all doubt.

      Despite the instructions, many jurors can’t pull the trigger and vote for death unless they are certain the defendant committed the crime.

      Residual doubt is the leading reason why jurors vote for LWOP and that is why death penalty lawyers fight so hard to suppress and exclude evidence even when they know it will not affect the outcome in the guilt phase.

  4. colin black says:

    oKAAY Im sure with some nouse I could find enough drugs 2 fell an elephant in .
    I most certainly am confused at the momment .I dont drink but I could sink a few brusikis for the cause.

    I feel like Im liveing in a Franz Kappa bad trip of coinsidence piled upon coinsidence with the recurunce of the number 13.

    Beyon the scope of not only coinsidence but all probanilty.

    If anyones read the hitch hikers guide to the universe

    Some one pressed the improbability deive in our lifes Me an Minen Better half that be.

    Any way Im waffling and youse dont ave a scoobydoo what Im on about an If u you did you wouldn t adam an eve it.

    Its happening to me an I dont beleive it

    So I could certainly fit dazed an confused on to the critteria an COME ON!

    iVE GOT PLENTY wittnesses on this very site to confirm Im orf me rocker…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….So I could Be strolling In St John one day In the MERRY MERRY MONTH OF MAY.

    When much to my suprise a foggage caught my eye

    I thought I was about to die as I was so fucking high .

    He asked If I was alright Guy?

    But I heard your about to die .

    And I also heard Trayvons Crys .

    Then much to his suprise I shot a hollow point through his right eye.

    I dint even think he would die because I was so drunk an high The Syk was also high .

    And my feet were so low an I couldnt feel my big toe.

    I dazed an confused and because of the booze my legs were loose as a goose .

    And I couldnt even stand around never mind stand my ground.

    But I will stand a round at the neares bar it cant be that far .

    As because Im on drugs an drunk as a skunk an confused an abused Im not liable




  5. lyn says:

    What is your thinking on the BLM and Cliven Bundy?

  6. lyn says:

    This guy should be put away forever and a day.
    Fred, the donation comes on Wednesday. Hope all is well

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