September 27, 2013 in City

Gail Gerlach says police violated his Miranda rights

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

No NRA backing

The National Rifle Association has decided not to support Gail Gerlach’s legal defense against manslaughter charges, according to his supporters.

The Support Gail Gerlach page on Facebook said the NRA’s decision was based on the large number of legal defense efforts the firearms advocacy group already is backing and had nothing to do with the perceived strengths or weaknesses of the case.

The Spokane man who shot a car thief outside his home in March will take the witness stand next week to argue statements he made to police directly following the incident should be suppressed from his upcoming manslaughter trial.

Through his defense attorneys, Gail Gerlach, 57, has requested a hearing in Spokane County Superior Court to argue that words and statements attributed to him in court records were incorrectly paraphrased by officers. Gerlach, who claims he fired in self-defense because he thought the thief was armed, also contends he was inadequately informed of his Miranda rights before speaking with investigators.

Gerlach alleges the first officer on the scene of the shooting outside his home at 1419 N. Lee St. incorrectly paraphrased hurried statements made in the driveway without informing Gerlach of his rights. Gerlach shot and killed 25-year-old Brendon T. Kaluza-Graham, who was speeding off in Gerlach’s 1997 Chevrolet Suburban, which had been left idling outside Gerlach’s home.

According to Spokane police Officer Tyler Cordis, who took Gerlach’s statement, the self-employed plumber said that “he was scared and that he did not know if he had done the right thing” after taking several seconds to catch his breath. Gerlach and his attorneys want that statement suppressed from courtroom proceedings, as well as statements made by Gerlach’s wife, Shannon, as hearsay evidence.

“Instead of being given his Miranda rights; (Gerlach) was given what amounts to Miranda wrongs,” defense attorneys wrote in their request for a hearing.

The decision to charge Gerlach with first-degree manslaughter came after several months of investigation by authorities. The defense team also contends police have not been forthcoming with evidence collected from the investigation, refusing to release field reports filed by officers and grant Gerlach’s expert forensic witness access to the SUV involved in the shooting.

A court order signed in June requires the state to turn over “all oral, written or recorded statements made by third parties to investigating officers” as well as “all physical and documentary evidence in possession of the state” to the defense team.

The NRA reportedly refused to support Gerlach’s case because of its involvement in numerous other lawsuits. Last month, Gerlach petitioned the court to provide money to pay for an expert witness, and his financial records have been sealed by a court order.

Gerlach’s hearing initially was set for 9 a.m. Thursday in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Annette Plese but has been rescheduled for late next month. Expected to testify are Cordis, investigating officers Kristopher Honiker and Ben Estes, Spokane County Medical Examiner Sally Aiken and Gerlach himself.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that the hearing date has been rescheduled.

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