An improper mention of a polygraph test recently sent a man's 2013 murder conviction back to Chattanooga, and prosecutors are trying to pick a new trial date.
Randall Reed said he never suffocated 70-year-old Jane Stokes on June 15, 2011, in her East Ridge home, but he did use her credit card because his drug-dealing friend "Milo" gave it to him. Jurors disagreed with him two years later after a trial in Hamilton County Criminal Court, and Reed was sentenced to life in prison for his first-degree murder and felony murder convictions.
But the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals threw out Reed's convictions in May. His murder, theft of property and fraudulent use of a credit card convictions are all back in Chattanooga because then-Judge Rebecca Stern let "Milo" testify that he'd agreed to take a lie-detector test, whereas Reed had not.
"It is well-settled that polygraph evidence is inadmissible," wrote Thomas T. Woodall, the presiding judge on the appeals court.
Now, attorneys must pick a new trial date for Reed, and decided Wednesday to return Jan. 16.
A neighbor found Stokes' body the morning after she failed to show up for her longtime job at a Chattanooga accounting office. Her face was covered with plastic wrap with her wrists bound behind her back, according to court testimony. Police said bank records showed someone using her card at ATMs starting at 6:51 a.m. on June 15, 2011. And they used witnesses, cellphone and motor- vehicle records to track Reed to a lodge on Shallowford Road.
Reed's attorney, Donna Miller, now believes any evidence police collected from that room should be suppressed because officers illegally searched it and violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
"A search warrant was not obtained until 12:07 on June 17, 2011, by the East Ridge Police Department, after which time the motel room had already been searched," Miller wrote in a Dec. 1 motion.
In a different motion, Miller asked for Reed's case to be dismissed, also because of the inadmissible polygraph.
At trial in 2013, attorneys had a bench conference with Stern to discuss Milo's testimony, the appeals court shows. Milo denied being involved in the crime, or knowing the defendant, but he was questioned. Prosecutors said they'd like to ask Milo if a detective asked him to take a polygraph test. Reed's defense objected, saying that was hearsay coming from Milo but not the detective.
"It's not offered for the truth of the matter and the results of the lie detector test are inadmissible but not for this reason," Stern concluded, according to the appeals decision. "I'll allow it. Go ahead."
But Milo's testimony did get into the truth of the matter, the appeals court said. Milo said he asked an East Ridge detective to take a polygraph because the other guy — Reed — "declined."
Police concluded there was no evidence that pointed to Milo as the killer, and he was never charged. But any testimony concerning a polygraph agreement "was not properly admitted in this case," Woodall wrote, "as conceded by the state in its brief."
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.