Indictment against Grunwald murder defendant thrown out

Austin Barrett at a Palmer Court hearing, Dec. 27, 2016 (KTUU)
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Austin Barrett, one of the defendants accused of the murder of David Grunwald in 2016, had his indictment thrown out by a Palmer judge.

Barrett's defense attorney argued that police continued to question Barrett even after he told them he was going to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

The defense says Barrett was taken into custody by police on Dec. 7, 2016 and agreed to answer questions, and was interviewed for about two hours. After answering some questions, the defense said Barrett made it clear he was invoking his rights, but the questioning continued.

Court documents say Barrett told investigators "I'm going to plead the Fifth and just wait". The defense claims officers then continued to interview Barrett, who denied being in the trailer where Grunwald was pistol-whipped, denied being in the victim's Bronco and denied being with Grunwald the night of the murder.

Court documents say one of the officers told Barrett that another suspect, Erik Almandinger, had identified Barrett as the person who shot Grunwald, but that Barrett continued to refuse to answer questions.

Superior Court Judge Gregory Heath ruled that Barrett was subjected to "coercive and relentless questioning that led to an interview that cannot be considered voluntary". The judge ruled that any statements made after Barrett said he was pleading the Fifth cannot be used as evidence, and the judge also dismissed the indictment against Barrett.

Judge Heath also ordered that Barrett be held in custody pending the filing of a new indictment. He also set a status hearing in the case for Jan. 22.

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