State not likely to use videotape in Demery trial

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

  
JONESBOROUGH -- A videotape detailing the interrogation of a Carter County man charged with first-degree murder is not likely to be introduced by prosecutors in his criminal trial scheduled for Carter County Criminal Court Monday.
   At a hearing held here in Washington County Criminal Court Friday, Assistant District Attorney Ken Baldwin said the state would not admit into evidence a videotape of police investigators interrogating Timothy Demery involving the death of David Harmon more than two years ago. Judge Robert Cupp heard the motion made by Assistant Public Defender Robert Oaks to suppress the videotape evidence.
   Demery, 27, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Harmon at Demery's residence on Kings Springs Road on March 14, 2002. The two men allegedly had an argument over money before the incident occurred, according to police investigators. Harmon's body was found in the back of his pickup truck located in the parking lot of Clifton View Baptist Church, 1507 Orleans Street, in Johnson City. Harmon, of Unicoi, had multiple gunshot wounds to the head, chest and lower body, according to police.
   Demery, then 24, was charged with murder the next day after being questioned by police. Demery who appeared at Friday's hearing has been held in the Carter County Jail since his arrest. He is scheduled to go to trial Monday in the Criminal Court of Carter County.
   Filed in October, Oaks' motion stemmed from a videotaped interrogation of Demery by investigators with the Carter County Sheriff's Department. Testimony made at the preliminary hearing indicated the defendant had been interviewed for approximately four hours, but the last two hours of the tape were not recorded due to an equipment malfunction. Testimony by investigators indicated that Demery had confessed during the final two hours and the alleged confession had not been recorded due to the equipment malfunction.
   In a letter to Baldwin in January, Oaks wrote he had received a two-hour tape of Demery's questioning during preliminary hearing stage of the case. Oaks' letter stated the sheriff's department later provided him with what he was told to be the final two hours of the interrogation wherein Demery was alleged to have confessed. However, that taped footage contained the first two hours of the interrogation.
   "We said all along there is no confession," Oaks said after the hearing. "The evidence keeps changing. We've only known they had the full three or four hours for a month or two."
   The motion also asked the court to suppress any form of confession that was allegedly made by Demery and claims that investigators threatened and coerced Demery into making statements. The motion contends "The defendant alleges that he was threatened, harassed, coerced, goaded and manipulated in order to extract the alleged confession."
   Cupp said he would rule on Oaks' motion to suppress if the tape was introduced into evidence during the trial. He requested a copy of the videotape to review before the trial.
   Baldwin filed a motion earlier this week seeking to block the impeachment of Carter County Sheriff's Department Capt. George Skeans' testimony involving Demery's interrogation. The motion contended the defense was attempting to make the investigation appear "tainted".
   Oaks told the court he would not drop his motion to suppress the tape in the event the state reversed the taped admission into evidence. He also told the court he planned to request Skeans' brother, CCSD Deputy Tom Skeans not be used as a court bailiff in the trial.
   Demery was originally indicted by a Carter County grand jury for second-degree murder in July of 2002, but was later re-indicted for first-degree murder on Nov. 4, 2002. Baldwin said the state planned to call between 15 to 18 witnesses during the trial.
   Demery's trial is set to be heard by Cupp on Monday morning and is expected to last for two days.