Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Thomas Adams denied a motion by murder suspect David Attias’ defense attorneys Wednesday to suppress evidence collected by the California Highway Patrol at the defendant’s home in Santa Monica.
Attias was charged with 13 felonies, including four counts of murder, after he struck five pedestrians and nine vehicles last year on Sabado Tarde Road. Four victims were killed and one suffered serious injuries.
Defense attorneys filed the motion Nov. 15, 2001 on the grounds that law enforcement officers obtained evidence from Attias’ parents’ Santa Monica home on an allegedly invalid search warrant on March 2, 2001. They also filed three similar motions on grounds of unlawful search and seizure. Evidence in question includes a psychiatric evaluation from Attias’ high school, items collected from his Francisco Torres dorm room and recorded conversations between Attias and his former attorney. The court suppressed some of this evidence in previous hearings.
The search warrant issued by Adams gave investigators authorization to search all rooms in the house, for a variety of property including computers, personal letters, photographs, bills, medical and school records and drug paraphernalia. The warrant was issued to gather information to “show a historical state of mind of David Attias, as well as a history of drug sales and use.”
Judge Adams said he denied Wednesday’s motion because Attias’ attorneys did not present a good argument as to why the evidence should be suppressed. Adams pointed out the defense could argue illegal search and seizure against each individual room searched in the Santa Monica home, including those rooms belonging to Attias’ family. However, he said doing so would be a waste of judicial time.
“I have a sneaking suspicion the decision would be the same,” he said.
The defense cited a portion of the California Penal Code as the basis of the motion, which states evidence can be suppressed if “the search and seizure with a search warrant was unreasonable because … the warrant is insufficient on its face.”
Defense attorneys Jack Earley and Nancy Haydt said the warrant was “insufficient” because the language used in the warrant was too broad and gave law enforcement officers the unlawful right to make searches that did not pertain to the crime – violating Attias’ fourth amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures.
“We had filed a series of motions earlier and this was basically a follow-up motion from before,” Haydt said.
Earley said the motions are procedural and need to be taken care of now so the defense does not have to bring them to the court’s attention later.
“We need to make sure we go through all these steps now. None of the evidence collected carries a tenor of information that would sway the jury. Whether we won or lost isn’t really going to change any of the issues at hand,” he said. “It’s like before a fight, there is a warm-up.”
The Attias case will proceed on April 5 when the court will hear arguments on pre-trial motions and the trial will begin on April 10. In the meantime, both the defense and the prosecution said they are finalizing their arguments. Attias has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
“There are last minute things that need to be taken care of; we are preparing witnesses, evidence and trial strategy,” Earley said.