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Defense moves to suppress evidence, testimony in Hill case

Lawyer for student allegedly planning Newberg High School massacre asserts defendant's journal was product of an illegal search and that he did not give his consent to interview

Jacob Dwight Hill, the Newberg High School student accused of planning a massacre at the school, appeared in Yamhill County Juvenile Court Wednesday for a pre-trial motion hearing ahead of his upcoming trial, set to begin April 27.

Defense counsel Paula Lawrence filed two motions on behalf of the 17-year-old youth: one to suppress evidence, most notably the defendant’s journal; and another to suppress statements given by the defendant in an interview done in his home and with his mother present after Newberg-Dundee police officers had arrested him for violating probation March 3.GARY ALLEN - The case of a Newberg High School student allegedly planning a massacre at the school continued in court this week with a judge expected to rule Friday whether some evidence gathered from the boy's bedroom will be allowed at the trial.

Yamhill County Circuit Judge John Collins heard testimony and arguments at the closed hearing to determine if the search that led to the seizure of a journal containing plans to shoot up the school, as well as a cell phone and a tablet, was legal.

Lawrence’s second motion asserted that statements from the in-home interview should not be allowed at the trial, arguing that Hill had not given consent, was coerced by his mother to answer questions he didn’t want to and had his Miranda rights violated.

Collins said that he would normally prefer to rule immediately, but because of the complexity of the case and the large amount of case law cited he would need more time to consider them and intended to make a ruling by Friday.

In addition to brief testimony from Hill’s mother, NDPD officers Chris Bolek, Heather Fults, Carl Busse and Todd Baltzell testified at the hearing.

Fults responded to a call from youth counselors March 3 after friends of Hill’s reported concern that he may try to shoot up the school.

Fults testified that she interview three youths and was shown a text message in which Hill had asked another party about acquiring guns.

The led to Fults and Busse going to Hill’s residence, first in an attempt to find him and second to continue investigating the threat to the school, which at this point the police considered to be credible and imminent.

Busse testified that he asked Hill’s mother and was granted permission to check his bedroom to see if he was there, but after looking in from the hallway, found he wasn’t.

In addition to investigating whether Hill might have had access to his mother’s gun and whether it was still secure in her safe, which it was, Hill’s mother was asked if officers could search Hill’s room.

She consented and Fults and Bolek searched the room, with Fults eventually finding the journal inside the pocket of a guitar case, which Lawrence later argued was not a legal part of the search because it was a private item inside personal property and not in plain view. She also questioned whether his mother had the authority to grant consent to search the room, among other legal objections.

When pressed by Lawrence on the issue, officers testified that because Hill was not there and they did not know where he was, they felt consent from the mother was sufficient to search the room and that their primary focus at that point was investigating and preventing a school shooting.

Lawrence later countered that no one would argue that preventing a school shooting shouldn’t have been priority No. 1, it doesn’t mean they get to keep the evidence if it wasn’t properly obtained.

At some point Hill’s mother agreed to call her son, who she understood to be out shopping with a friend, and told him to return home immediately because the police wanted to talk to him.

Upon returning, Hill and his unidentified friend were arrested for violating probation, with Hill having missed a required counseling session that day.

Hill’s mother initially requested that her son not answer any questions without a lawyer, but was later asked by Busse if she would allow them to question him there in the home if she was present, assuring her that he could refuse to answer any question or stop at any time. Both Hill and his mother agreed.

At one point in the interview, Busse testified that he steered the conversation back toward other students who were involved in planning the shooting, at which point Hill refused to answer and invoked his Miranda rights.

Busse, who said he was the one who had earlier read Hill his Miranda rights, testified that he was explicit at that point in telling Hill that he would not ask any further questions, nor should Hill say anything further, but that he would make a statement so that Hill would understand Busse and the police’s perspective in wanting to prevent any violence at the high school.

Busse testified that Hill’s mother then directed him to answer the question, which Lawrence later argued should not be admissible as Hill clearly felt obligated to obey his mother.

Before dismissing the hearing, Collins said both sides had made strong arguments, which contributed to his need to take more time to consider the ruling.