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Friday, April 19
The Indiana Daily Student

Defense in I-65 shooting case says gun seizure, arrest of suspect was illegal

Attorney says evidence should be inadmissible

BROWNSTOWN, Ind. – Attorneys for a Muncie-area teenager accused of killing a truck passenger in a sniper shooting from an Interstate 65 bridge said key evidence against him should be thrown out because investigators obtained it illegally.\nZachariah Blanton’s attorneys told Jackson Circuit Judge William Vance that his confession and a .270-caliber Remington rifle seized from his home should be ruled inadmissible at his trial, scheduled to begin Oct. 31.\nBlanton, 18, of Gaston, Ind. faces charges of murder, attempted murder and criminal recklessness. He’s accused of shooting at traffic from the bridge near Seymour on July 23, 2006, fatally wounding Jerry Ross, 40, of New Albany as he rode in a truck.\nThe rifle found at Blanton’s home matched bullet fragments pulled from vehicles shot along I-65 about 60 miles south of Indianapolis and on I-69 near Muncie a few hours later. Investigators said Blanton’s confession to the I-65 gunfire came as they questioned him in connection with the I-69 shootings.\nDefense attorney Alan Wilson told Vance during a hearing Wednesday that there was “absolutely no probable cause to arrest Zach Blanton” in connection with the I-69 shootings.\nState police Detective Daryl Thornburg testified a man who had been hunting with the Blanton family in southern Indiana reported the teen, armed with a .270 Remington rifle, had left the hunting party in anger. He said Blanton told him that he took a route home to Gaston that put him in the area at the time of the shootings.\nWilson and co-counsel Bruce Mactavish argued that was not enough probable cause for an arrest. They also said the rifle was seized from the Blanton home without a search warrant and that Blanton was arrested without a warrant.\nJackson County Prosecutor Richard Poynter countered that Blanton’s grandparents, with whom he lived, consented to the search that turned up the rifle and to the questioning of the youth, who was then 17.\nBlanton’s grandmother, Patricia Blanton, testified that police officers told her and her husband that they just wanted to see the rifle and never said they were going to take it.\n“I asked them, ‘Where are you going with that?’” she said. “And he told me, ‘To the lab.’ I said, ‘You lied to us.’”\nThornburg, though, testified that he and other investigators were clear with the Blantons about the reason for the search.\n“We told them we were there to look for the rifle and asked for permission to look for the rifle,” Thornburg said. “She gave us permission to take the rifle.”\nVance gave both sides until Oct. 9 to submit written arguments before he rules on the evidence.

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