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Judge denies motions in infant death case

WORTHINGTON -- An order filed by Judge David E. Christensen reports several rulings regarding motions filed by the defense regarding the State of Minnesota versus Lisa Marie Shane case.

Shane is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of child neglect arising from the death of her infant daughter.

In November 2005, defense attorneys James D. Fleming, Chief Public Defender, and Christina Wietzema, Assistant Public Defender, filed motions seeking suppression of Shane's statements to police detectives and her testimony at the parental rights termination (TPR) hearing, suppression of evidence obtained as a result of search warrants, preclusion of an upward durational departure based upon aggravating factors and a change in venue.

In the order filed by Christensen earlier this month, the motions to suppress Shane's statements to Sioux Falls police and her testimony at the TPR were denied. The motion to suppress the search warrants and evidence obtained was also denied, as was the motion for a change of venue -- although it is subject to reopening upon submission of additional evidence.

The ruling on the notice to seek an upward departure was reserved until the state files a supplemental brief on the issue.

After hearing the arguments of counsel and based upon records and files, the judge made a list of findings of fact that included the information that Shane brought her daughter to the emergency room at Worthington Regional Hospital (WRH) shortly after 11 p.m. Oct. 28, 2004 because the child was limp, unresponsive and had weak respiratory function. The child was airlifted to Sioux Falls, S.D., and suffering from intracranial injuries.

Because it appeared to physicians at WRH that the child's injuries may have been intentionally inflicted, they contacted Nobles County Dispatch to report the possibility of child abuse. At Sioux Valley Hospital, a physician found injuries to the child he believed were consistent with being thrown, hit or intentionally shaken and contacted a South Dakota social worker. Other officials were contacted as well, resulting in two Sioux Falls detectives speaking to physicians about the child's injuries, and Shane was also questioned.

In the motion filed, the defendant argued her statement to the detectives should be suppressed because the police failed to provide a Miranda warning. She also claimed her statement were involuntary made.

"The facts simply do not support the conclusion that the defendant asks this court to reach," the judge's order states, citing the fact Shane voluntarily agreed to visit the police station to answer questions and was told she was not under arrest.

"A review of the transcript indicates the defendant did not lack the ability to comprehend the purposes for which she was being questioned," the memorandum states. "...The defendant did become emotional about halfway through the interview, but this was not until she was told that the detectives found her story to be unbelievable."

The order also states Shane voluntarily appeared at the TPR hearing, without being subpoenaed by the state, and said she wanted to appear in order to "fight to get (her) children back."

"A review of the transcript from the termination hearing evidences that the defendant knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waived her rights against self-incrimination," the order states.

The judge found no basis for invalidating the three search warrants and no basis for suppressing the evidence obtained from them.

The defendant argued for the change of venue, believing she would be deprived of a fair trial based upon prejudicial pretrial media coverage of the case, but the judge stated the media coverage "could hardly be considered widespread." After an opportunity to review videotape from two Sioux Falls, S.D., news reports and news articles, the judge said the news accounts were factual by nature and contained no opinions or implications regarding the defendant's guilt.

"This court concludes that the evidence submitted at this time falls short of establishing prejudicial pretrial publicity, therefore defendant's motion for change in venue must be denied," the order states. "The denial is subject to reopening upon submission of additional evidence by the defendant, such as qualified public opinion surveys or questionnaires."

The case is currently scheduled to go to trial sometime in April.