Stillwater judge denies motion to suppress driver's statements in OSU parade crash case
STILLWATER — The trial of a woman accused of driving her car into a crowd of people at last year's Oklahoma State University homecoming parade will remain in Payne County, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Adacia Chambers, 26, faces four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery by means or force likely to produce death in connection with the crash. Chambers' attorney, Tony Coleman, filed a motion in October requesting a change of venue, saying heavy media coverage of the crash had tainted the jury pool.
During a hearing Tuesday, former state Sen. Ed Long, a 12-year Stillwater resident, testified that nearly everyone he knew had already decided that Chambers was likely guilty.
Long, a former member of the Board of Regents for OSU and the A&M Colleges, said he and a number of friends discussed the crash at his church on the day after the parade. Those conversations haven't stopped since then, he said.
Long submitted an affidavit earlier this year saying he thought it was unlikely Chambers could receive a fair trial in Stillwater. During Tuesday's hearing, Long said most people he knows in the area would have a difficult time putting aside their prejudices long enough to serve on a jury.
"I feel that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible," he said.
OSU student Tiffany Sims, 20, testified she'd heard friends and strangers around Stillwater say they hoped Chambers would burn in hell or be crucified. One fellow student suggested the city should "do to her what she did to us," Sims said.
Those comments came both from OSU students and others, she said.
"It's a little more harsh once you get off campus," Sims said.
But prosecutor Emily Kirkpatrick argued that the defense demonstrated only that a large percentage of Stillwater residents were prejudiced against Chambers. Chambers' attorneys didn't show that the same prejudice extended to residents in other parts of Payne County, who would also be eligible to serve on a jury, Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick also argued that the jury selection is designed to weed out the kind of prejudice Chambers' attorneys tried to demonstrate existed, and she urged Payne County District Judge Stephen Kistler to reserve any decision to move the trial until after jury selection had begun.
Kistler agreed, saying he wasn't convinced the court couldn't find 12 qualified jurors in all of Payne County.
"This county is much more than OSU," Kistler said. "This county is much more than Stillwater."
Also in Tuesday's hearing, Kistler denied a motion to suppress statements made in the moments after the incident.
A bystander testified Tuesday that Chambers had told him immediately after the crash that she was suicidal.
Chambers is accused of driving her car into a crowd of people at the corner of Hall of Fame Avenue and N Main Street.
Killed in the crash were Marvin Stone, 65, a retired OSU professor; his wife, Bonnie Stone, 65, an OSU employee; Nikita Nakal, 23, a University of Central Oklahoma graduate student; and Nash Lucas, 2, the son of an OSU sophomore chemistry student. Dozens were injured.
During Tuesday's hearing, Nathan Oglesby, a spectator at the parade, testified that Chambers' car came to rest after the crash about 5 feet from where his family was standing. Oglesby, a former emergency medical technician, went to the car, where he found Chambers sitting in the driver's seat with her hands on the steering wheel.
Oglesby said he asked Chambers several questions to determine how badly she was injured. He said Chambers told him she had been trying to kill herself because she wanted to be free.
Oglesby said he moved Chambers from her car into a nearby lawn chair when officers and bystanders began to lift her car to free a victim trapped underneath.
Moments later, Stillwater police Officer Kevin Radley found Chambers sitting in the chair in front of her car. Radley testified that he asked Chambers what had happened. Chambers said “something about wanting to relieve her sins,” Radley said.
Radley and Payne County Sheriff's Office Deputy Marvin Noyes moved Chambers to the back of Noyes' patrol car. Noyes handcuffed Chambers, fearing she was a suicide risk.
Moments later, Stillwater police Officer Sean Millermon questioned Chambers while she was still in the back of Noyes' patrol car. Millermon testified that Chambers' eyelids were heavy and her speech was thick and slow, leading him to suspect that she'd been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Millermon said he didn't smell alcohol on Chambers' breath. He asked if she had taken any drugs that day, and she said no. Chambers asked Millermon twice if she was free to go, Millermon testified. He told her she wasn't.
After questioning her, Millermon arrested Chambers on a DUI complaint and took her to Stillwater Medical Center for a blood test before taking her to Stillwater city jail for booking. He read Chambers her Miranda rights once they arrived at the city jail, more than an hour after the crash.
During the hearing, defense attorney Bo DeBose argued that Chambers' statements after the crash shouldn't be admissible in court because Chambers made them while she might reasonably have thought she was in custody, but before she'd been advised of her Miranda rights.
But prosecutor Kevin Etherington said the questions officers asked Chambers pertained only to what had happened and whether she was injured — questions that would be asked of any driver involved in a crash. Because those questions didn't rise to the level of an interrogation, a Miranda warning wasn't required, Etherington said.
Again, Kistler agreed, ruling that the statements Chambers had made had been voluntary and weren't a part of an interrogation.
Chambers sat at the defense table flanked by Coleman and DeBose, arms free of shackles and dressed in an orange Payne County jail jumpsuit, her brown hair pulled back in a sweeping braid. She remained silent throughout the hearing.
Chambers' jury trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 10.