NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Nashville judge will decide in the coming days whether crucial DNA evidence will be excluded from evidence in Jerome Barrett's upcoming murder trial.
Barrett, who was found guilty in late January in the 1975 slaying of Vanderbilt University student Sarah Des Prez, is scheduled to go on trial next month for the murder of nine-year-old Marcia Trimble.
Trimble disappeared while selling Girl Scout cookies in the Green Hills area in February 1975, around the same time Des Prez was killed.
Wednesday morning, Barrett's defense asked the judge to suppress DNA evidence taken from Barrett in 2007 arguing police did not have probable cause to take the samples.
Defense attorney James McNamara said the use of the word "buildings" in Detective Bill Pridemore's affidavit presented to the judge who ordered the search warrant thus ordering the DNA test was misleading.
He said his client never confessed to more than one rape when he was first arrested in 1975 and the plural word implied "more than one", which may have influenced the judge to issue the search warrant.
The portion of the statement in questions reads as follows:
"Mr. Barrett stated in the early morning hours he would enter the buildings attempting to find unlocked apartment doors. Once entering the apartment, he would forcibly rape the victims."
"I think anybody who would read those three sentences in sequence would attribute the plain meaning of them to be that that information was provided by the defendant to the detective in 1975," McNamara argued.
Prosecuting attorney Tom Thurman told the judge there is no basis to keep the DNA evidence out of court.
"There's nothing false in [the statement]," he said. "You can read it how you want to but clearly there's nothing false in that situation. It's basically a summary of [Detective Pridemore's] investigation."
Thurman said whether Barrett entered one or more "buildings" has nothing to do with "probable cause" and even if there was an error made by the detective, there was enough probable cause in the affidavit to sustain the search.
"Whether he entered one or two buildings on Belmont's campus to rape a woman two weeks after the death of Ms. Des Prez, that's not really relevant to probable cause," he said.
If the judge does decide to throw out the DNA evidence, the state is entitled to take another DNA sample from Barrett because he has been convicted of a crime.
The judge said he will decide whether to exclude the evidence in the coming days.
The Trimble trial is scheduled to begin next month.
Barrett will be tried under the statutes of 1975 as he was for the Des Prez trial, and the jury will likely be asked to sentence him.