(KMSP) - New details are emerging in the child pornography case against a “person of interest” in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling. As lawyers fight over what evidence is admissible in the upcoming trial, recent court filings include partial transcripts of statements made by Danny Heinrich.
In a Friday filing by the prosecution, the court document includes the following exchange between Heinrich and a police officer while investigators searched his home:
HEINRICH: “Well I’m, I’m a single man naturally I’m gonna have pornography…”
OFFICER: “Is it regular pornography?"
HEINRICH: “No, it’s, it varies all over the board.”
OFFICER: “Is it on a computer or paper or?”
HEINRICH: “Paper, computer.”
OFFICER: “Well like I said Dan, that’s not the end of the world. We’re not here, we’re not looking because you got child pornography okay?”
HEINRICH: “Well, there’s, there’s some…”
The partial transcript was included in the prosecution’s response to the defense team’s objections to a magistrate judge’s recommendation. The magistrate recommended all statements made by Heinrich to police, and all child pornography seized from his home, be admitted as evidence in his trial. The ultimate decision on the evidence is up to a federal judge, who can approve the magistrate’s recommendation or overrule it.
In another court document, the defense team noted Heinrich was not allowed to use the bathroom in his house during the search, and was made to “twice urinate in a litter box in his garage.”
Heinrich’s lawyers argue the search warrant, which led to the discovery of the child porn, was “stale,” based on an old case, and say police were searching the home for evidence related to Wetterling or Paynesville sexual assaults in the 1980s — not looking for child pornography. However, the magistrate judge, who must have his recommendation approved by a federal judge, said even though police did not have probable cause to search for child porn, the evidence was still admissible because officers were acting in “good faith” and the porn was in “plain view,” two exceptions to the warrant requirement for a search.
Heinrich’s lawyers also continue to argue that statements he made to police during the search, and when police came to return some items, are inadmissible because he was effectively in police custody; an interrogation in police custody requires a Miranda Warning for the statements to be admissible. The magistrate disagreed, concluding Heinrich was not in custody: that he was in his backyard and was free to leave.
“The issue really becomes whether he was actually in custody. Was he free to walk about? Was he free to leave his yard? Was he free to go into his gazebo? A number of factors. And based on the totality of the circumstances, he was not in custody,” Joe Tamburino, a criminal defense attorney not involved in the case, told Fox 9.
The Heinrich's child pornography trial is scheduled for October 11. Heinrich only faces federal child pornography charges. He is not facing any charges related to Wetterling’s disappearance. Police found no Wetterling evidence in the search of Heinrich’s home in 2015.
“The defense is doing what they have to do. Basically, they’re trying to attack the government’s case any way they can. But the government’s case is very strong,” Tamburino said.
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