Courtroom statements at issue in murder case

Stephen Thompson

The prosecution wants to use statements capital murder defendant Stephen Thompson recently made in court against him in his trial next year.

Thompson, 58, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree domestic assault and two counts of armed criminal action in the June 10, 2015, shotgun slaying of Carissa Gerard, 38, and the wounding of his estranged wife, Kristina Thompson, 42.

The Jasper County prosecutor’s office is seeking the death penalty in the case scheduled to go to trial in October 2020.

According to a motion filed by the prosecution requesting the court reporter’s audio recording of a hearing Sept. 5, Thompson “made admissions regarding the murder and first-degree assault” at that hearing.

The motion argues that there is no rule or statute that suggests a court reporter’s audio recordings are privileged or confidential and that the state has “an obligation to attempt to obtain and to turn over known recorded statements of the defendant” regarding charged offenses.

The document also acknowledges that the state “wishes to use defendant’s courtroom confession” against him at trial. Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Fisher wrote in the brief that the defendant asked to address the court at the hearing and made the statement voluntarily and in the presence of his attorneys, Thomas Jacquinot and Devon Pasley.

The defense opposed the motion at a hearing Friday, arguing that the state previously requested and obtained a transcript of the hearing and, unless there was some claim that the transcript contains an error or inaccuracies, the court “lacks the discretion to order the release of the raw data used to produce the official record.”

Jacquinot wrote in a response to Fisher’s brief: “The state claims that unsworn and non-testimonial statements made by Thompson on (the date in question) are admissible evidence against him at future court proceedings. The defense does not agree with that claim, but the purpose of that response is limited to opposing the state’s request that this court order its reporter to produce an unofficial audio recording.”

Circuit Judge David Mouton denied the state’s request for the audio recording at the hearing, noting in a docket entry that the court had directed the court reporter to file a transcript of the Sept. 5 hearing, “which already had been presented to counsel and regarding which there have been no suggestions of any inaccuracies.”

The judge did not address the question of whether the prosecution could use the statements Thompson made at trial, leaving that as an issue that may be argued further in pretrial filings and hearings.

Fisher’s motion does not state what Thompson told the court at the hearing. The transcript was not publicly available at the time of the hearing.

The Thompsons were separated at the time of the double shooting, with Gerard and Kristina Thompson living together in the house at 4215 W. 26th Place that the Thompsons shared previously with their son. The defense has acknowledged in pretrial filings that the Thompsons’ relationship was “in a severe state of deterioration.” Both of them were using illicit drugs, and the state had removed their preschool-age son from their custody as a result of their unfitness as parents, according to a defense motion.

The defense maintains that there is reason to believe the Thompsons and Gerard “all suffered from mental illness.”

A probable-cause affidavit filed with the capital murder charges states that Stephen Thompson drove 96 miles to obtain a .12-gauge shotgun and bought shells in Grove, Oklahoma, before returning to Joplin and his wife’s home. He is believed to have shot Gerard first and then turned the gun on his wife, shooting her several times as she fled from him out the back of the house.

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