Judge Robert Headrick denied a motion Wednesday from defense attorneys for a Seymour resident accused of the May 7 drowning death of her child.
Public defender Stacey Nordquist said she filed the motion after an investigator served a search warrant on 34-year-old Bethanie Carriker in the Blount County Detention Center without her knowledge or consent on May 11.
Carriker was charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse by neglect after her 15-month-old and infant daughters were found unresponsive in a bathtub on May 7.
The older child was pronounced dead later that night at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
The infant recently was released from the hospital.
Nordquist said a sheriff’s detective submitted a handwritten search warrant to Judge David Duggan early on May 10 while her case was in another judge’s court.
The warrant was served the next day at the jail, after the detective called her but didn’t leave a voice message, requiring Nordquist to text another state employee to clarify why she was called.
“Why there was a wait, I don’t know,” Nordquist said in court Wednesday. “The property they were going through was already in their possession. What we are saying is, from here on out, we want there to be a rule that they are not to have any contact with my client unless they are in contact with me first.”
Citing Sixth Amendment regulations that prevent prosecutors from questioning a defendant after they have invoked the right to counsel, Nordquist described BCSO investigators as agents of the district attorney.
Assistant State Attorney Ryan Desmond disagreed, describing the motion as placing an injunction on investigators.
“Law enforcement has done nothing outside those guidelines,” Desmond said. “Those rules she cited from the Supreme Court apply to attorneys. No attorney from the state of Tennessee has questioned Ms. Carriker and no attorney from the state of Tennessee has any intent to question Ms. Carriker.”
Remedies, including suppression of evidence or statements, exist if Carriker was contacted incorrectly, Desmond added.
“To look into a crystal ball and say that, ‘At no time can law enforcement have any contact with Ms. Carriker,’ is inappropriate,” Desmond said.
Headrick agreed that better efforts at communication would be made with the defense but denied the motion, describing it as placing an onus on the Sheriff’s Office to enforce a civil restraining order on that office that would impact normal jail operations.
Headrick also granted the state’s request to schedule another hearing for 1:30 p.m. June 18 to allow adequate time to access a final autopsy report.
Reporters encountered another hurdle when requests were made to the Circuit Court for copies of the search warrant.
The request initially was refused, citing lack of records access and public relevance after reporters were bounced between the Circuit and General Sessions court offices.
Reporters from varying news organizations were told after a long wait to fill out a public records request after a Knoxville News Sentinel reporter informed the clerk that served warrants are legally public records, then were told the request could take up to seven days to fulfill.
After a short argument, the clerk tore up his request but couldn’t state why she did so.