Stewart's motions to suppress denied

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Cindy Stewart

Cathy Decker/Staff Reporter

Cindy Stewart appeared in Mercer County Court Thursday, May 19, 2011, with public defender Katherine Drummond on two motions before Judge Frank Fuhr -- first, a motion to dismiss charges due to the unconstitutionality of the methamphetamine statute that Stewart was charged under; and a secondly a motion to suppress Cindy's statement at the sheriff's office due to it being coerced.

Cindy Stewart was arrested Jan. 16, 2011, along with her husband James Stewart, after a Mercer County Sheriff's deputy observed what he thought was an active methamphetamine lab at the Stewart's home in Keithsburg.

After about two hours of testimony, both motions were denied by Judge Fuhr.

The court heard evidence on the motion to dismiss first. Attorney Drummond honed in on the part of the methamphetamine statute having to do with operating a meth lab within 1,000 feet of a place of worship. She argued that "place of worship" was not defined in the statute. She called the language in the law vague, unclear and "unenforceable."

She pointed to the fact that St. Mary's Catholic Church only holds services on Saturdays and the church was in use less than one percent of the time in any given week. She said she did not think the law's purpose was to "promote organized religion over any other secular purpose." She asked, are clergy and parishioners more deserving of protection that police officers, teachers or nurses?

Judge Fuhr asked, "Isn't a church a place of worship?"

Mercer County State's attorney Greg McHugh called the defense motion frivolous and asked Mercer County Detective Dusty Terrill to the stand. Terrill verified that St. Mary's Church was an active church by talking to Father Theiryoung and to the attorney for the Diocese of Peoria.

McHugh argued that the law gives extra protection for certain areas (like churches and schools) and this has been found to be constitutional. "They do not want the danger of drug making anywhere near to a church," said McHugh.

Judge Fuhr said, "A place of worhsip is not vague and it (meth making) does violate the statute and the motion is denied."

For the second motion, public defender Drummond called Mercer County Deputy Jesse Doty to the stand. She asked him to go through what happened on the night the Stewarts were arrested.

Doty said he observed James Stewart driving a jeep in his yard. He then found out that James had a warrant out for his arrest from Rock Island County for failure to appear. Doty got out of his car and approached the garage, where he noticed a fan was blowing out the window and "it blew anhydrous ammonia to my face."

Doty then called for backup. "I believed he was cooking methamphetamine," he said. Doty explained about how his backup appeared, went to the door and announced the police presence, which prompted Cindy Stewart to turn away, run inside and lock the door. The officers kicked in the door and eventually arrested Cindy, James and another individual.

Cindy Stewart also took the stand, talking about how she had to remove her clothing and put on paper clothes, and she wore socks and no shoes walking through the snow to the squad car. She said she was cold and scared. After arriving at the Sheriff's office, she took a shower and was put in a jump suit and put into a holding cell.

She told the public defender that she signed the sheet of paper advising her of her rights "because I thought I was supposed to do it."

Detective Terrill was called to the stand by McHugh, explaining why suspects in a meth case need to remove their clothing and shoes to prevent contamination to the squad cars.

Public defender Drummond argued that the search of the Stewart home was illegal because there was no suspicion of anything illegal going on in the area that they searched. "Evidence was in the garage, not the home," she said.

She said that statements made by her client should be suppressed because they were not made knowingly and voluntarily. She claimed there was violation of Cindy Stewart's fourth, sixth and 14th amendment rights.

Judge Fuhr denied the motion to suppress the statements made by Cindy on Jan. 17 and said the officers' entry into the home was reasonable and that there was no evidence of any coercive action by any of the officers.

The court will need to set a new time for hearing the next step of the case, due to the fact that Judge Fuhr had just been brought in as judge in the case.

Judge Fuhr said the pretrial hearing would be set up through the 14th judicial district court administrator. Cindy Stewart is currently out on $3,000 bond.