Friscia acquitted – Judge cites “Constitutional violations”

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In a non-jury trial June 24, Mary Friscia of Polson was acquitted of charges filed in 2018 of felony possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

The acquittal order, signed by District Judge Kim Christopher, states that the defendant was questioned by Lt. Levi Reed of Lake County Sheriff’s Office after being taken into custody by Undersheriff Ben Wood. This initial interview was unrecorded and occurred prior to Friscia being read her “…Constitutional Rights pursuant to both Montana and the U.S. Constitution…” the document states. After the unrecorded interview, Friscia was read her rights, and then the recorder was turned on as the interview proceeded.

Deputy County Attorney James Lapotka called Lt. Reed as the first witness at the bench trial. Defendant’s counsel, Glen Neier, objected that prosecution’s questions stemmed from information received in the unrecorded, pre-Miranda interview, and were therefore based on hearsay and lack of foundation.

Lt. Reed “testified that he never informed the Defendant of the inadmissibility of her previous pre-Miranda statements after giving the Miranda warning,” the acquitting order reads.

The requirement to inform a defendant of her right to remain silent, her right to representation by an attorney, and other rights is often called “Miranda Rights,” based on the 1966 U.S. case Miranda v. Arizona. Judge Christopher cited this case and “voluminous case law in both state and federal law” in the acquittal.

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