Judge puts twist on Miranda rights in drug search

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Although a woman stands charged with possession of illicit drugs after a search of her person found a plastic bag containing several pills, Justice James D. O'Neill III of Belknap County Superior has ruled that an incriminating statement she made during the search cannot be introduced into evidence at trial.

Selina Arnes was arrested by a Belknap County Deputy Sheriff and a United States Marshall on an outstanding Governor's Warrant issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She was taken to the Belknap County Jail where, according to standard protocol, she underwent an "unclothed search."

When Arnes got down to her underwear, Nicole Mills, the corrections officer, conducting the search noticed she was reaching toward her left breast or left armpit. Hearing what she described as a "crinkling" sound, Mills suspected Arnes was hiding something in her bra. Mills asked her what she was reaching for and Arnes did not reply but continued to reach toward her left breast or armpit. Mills asked a second officer to join her then repeated her question. Arnes replied with an incriminating statement.

Following the incriminating statement, Mills searched her bra and found the drugs. On finding criminal activity within the jail, she referred it to her supervisors, who in turn referred it to the Sheriff's Department.

Arnes, represented by attorney Andrew Livernois, asked the court to suppress her incriminating statement on the grounds she made during a "custodial interrogation" and that she had not been read her Miranda rights, or the right to remain silent before being interrogated in order to ensure that incriminating statement my not be used in criminal proceedings. Consequently, she claimed her rights under the state and federal constitutions were violated and the incriminating statement must be suppressed.

The issue before the court was whether Arnes was subject to a "custodial interrogation," which itself requires that two conditions must be met: first, that she was in custody and second, that she was subject to interrogation.

O'Neill ruled that both conditions were met, dismissing the arguments brought by the state that Mills is not a law enforcement officer pursuing an investigation, that Arnes was not in custody because she was arrested on a Massachusetts warrant and that even if she were in custody, the questioning did not rise to the level of an interrogation. O'Neill ruled that Arnes, who was brought to the jail in handcuffs and searched in a room the size of a small closet was clearly in custody.

In the context of Miranda rights, interrogation refers to either "express questioning or its functional equivalent," which means questions reasonably likely to elect an incriminating response.O'Neill held that Mills's questions, posed to a woman in her underwear standing in a small room before two corrections officers, were functionally equivalent to interrogation. Moreover, he noted that Mills asked the questions in response the Arnes's actions, which aroused her suspicion that she was hiding something.

O'Neill concluded that in the circumstances Arnes was entitled to receive a Miranda warning and since there is no dispute that it was not given, ordered that her incrimination statement be suppressed.

Donations being accepted in honor of Northfield employee killed on job

By ALANA PERSSON, LACONIA DAILY SUN

NORTHFIELD — Community members have rallied together in memory of Tom Wooten, 56, who passed away last week during a work accident at the town highway garage.

Tom Wooten

Wooten had spent the past three years working for the Northfield Highway Department and was highly regarded by his co-workers. What started out as a normal day at work took a turn for the worst, resulting in Wooten being pinned between a truck and a loader on the highway garage site. Wooten was rushed to the hospital, and although great efforts were made to help him survive, he died due to his injuries.

Since his death, members of the Northfield community have taken many routes to help honor Wooten's contributions to the community, as well as raise funds to support his mourning family.

Tuesday night, selectmen began the process of creating a memorial in Wooten's name. Town Administrator Glenn Smith said this initial meeting was a chance to put ideas out on the table for how to best honor Wooten; however, it will be at least few weeks before the final idea is decided.

"The board is continuing the conversation so that it also includes talking to his co-workers, so we can collectively decide what the best way to honor him properly is," said Smith. Some of the ideas suggested thus far include a plaque or naming something in his memory.

In addition to the town's memorial contribution, local community members can actively support Wooten's family by donating to the GoFundMe account created in his memory by Police Department Administrative Assistant/Dispatcher Christine Murray, of Tilton. The account can be found at www.gofundme.com/2fv36rz6. Efforts from the fundraising hope to donate $5,000 to the family, with $3,050 already raised over the first five days. Donations on GoFundMe can be made using a debit or credit card account. Cash or check donations are also presently being accepted, and can be dropped off or mailed to 138 Park St., Northfield, NH 03276, with checks made to the Northfield Police Association, with notation The Wooten Family.

Brush fire brings several departments to Chase Road in Meredith

MEREDITH — A press time, multiple fire departments were converging at 66 Chase Road to battle a first-alarm brush fire. At 8:33 p.m. the fire was declared “contained,” meaning it is not spreading any further, but no additional details are known. Chase Road is a dead end road off Route 104.