Washington Evening Journal
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Defense motions to hire expert witnesses in Fairfield murder case
FAIRFIELD — The defense team of Fairfield teen Willard Noble Chaiden Miller has asked the government to pay for a slate of expert witnesses that it plans to call during Miller’s murder trial in April.
However, prosecutors in the case are resisting this attempt, arguing that hiring these witnesses at such a late stage in the process would require delaying the trial even further. Miller, 17, is being charged with the murder of Nohema Graber, 66, who was a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School at the time of her death in November 2021.
District Court Judge Shawn Showers has agreed to a hearing on the recent motion by the defense, and has set a date of March 29 for the Jefferson County Courthouse. Miller is scheduled to stand trial starting April 21 in Council Bluffs.
Miller’s defense team, led by attorney Christine Branstad, has requested the state pay for expert witnesses such as: a crime scene analyst for up to $10,000; a digital forensic expert for $9,000; a social psychologist for $7,000; a clinical psychologist for $5,000; and an investigator for $3,500.
Branstad stated in her motion that her client was found indigent by the court, meaning he could not pay for his own expenses. She stated that a digital forensic expert was necessary since the state intends to offer into evidence cellphone information obtained from Miller and his co-defendant, Jeremy Everett Goodale, who is also charged with murder.
Branstad argued that a social psychologist was necessary to address questions about a person’s memory and its limitations, and how it could be affected by alcohol or other substances.
In filing his resistance to Branstad’s motion, Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding argued that the court should deny the motion for its untimeliness, because the defense has had access to crime scene investigation and digital evidence from cellphones for more than a year. He said that was true for other pieces of evidence, too.
“Both the social psychologist and clinical psychologist testimony, assuming it is allowed, would impact evidence that has been known to the defendant since the inception of the case,” Moulding wrote. “Based on their motion, it appears no work has been completed by the defense’s requested witnesses.”
Moulding also expressed his doubt that so many expert witnesses could be available on such short notice, since the trial is just a month away.
“There is very little time to conduct the necessary review and depositions of the witnesses,” Moulding wrote. “The State intends to make every effort to complete discovery of the witnesses listed by the defense in order to be ready for trial on April 21, 2023.”
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