Courtroom battle within weeks

The trial of Robert Lars Pape, 29, and Cristin Conrad Smith, 29, charged with multiple counts of murder, is supposed to begin late this month. The prosecutors and defense attorneys are already preparing for the courtroom battle.

Earlier this month, the Riverside County District Attorney submitted several motions to Judge Bernard Schwartz to grant them permission to submit conversations and video as part of their prosecution.

Last week, Pape’s and Smith’s attorneys filed motions objecting to using the material and asking for permission to use some of their own research.

The judge is likely to rule on these motions next week, during the pretrial activities, which are planned to begin March 27. He also has ruled that there will be separate juries for each defendant.

Regarding the prosecution’s request to submit a May 2012 video of Smith, when military investigators interrogated him, the defense argues that Smith’s Miranda rights were violated and, therefore, the tape or transcript are inadmissible.

The prosecution admits that no Miranda warnings were given to Smith, but they claim he was not under arrest during the interrogation. The military investigators told him he was not under arrest and were asking questions that he did not have to answer.

At that time, Smith was in the military stationed at Ft. Lewis in Washington. Although he confirmed his understanding of his situation, according to the DA’s motion, the defense maintains that the Miranda ruling about the right to legal counsel is very clear. Smith’s statements would be used and he should have been warned, they wrote.

The defense also objected to the admission of the evidence from a 2012 search of Smith’s home in the desert. Discovered then were several rifles and guns whose caliber matched the bullets in the homicide victims.

According to the defense motion, Smith has shown his purchase of these firearms, for all but one, occurred in 2007 or later, after the 2006 murders. Consequently, their admission would be prejudicial.

Pape’s attorney also objects to the admission of several phone conversations between Paper and his former wife, Sara Honaker Pape. These occurred in June 2014 after his first arrest.

The prosecutor argues Pape and his then-wife were discussing guns that he owned and where they might be concealed. However, the defense argues that communication between spouses is generally privileged in California.

These and possibly more motions will go before Schwarz before the jury selection or trial begins.

The two men are charged with the 2006 murders of Jon Hayward, Vicki Friedli, and Vicki’s daughter Becky, all lived in Pinyon. The murders occurred on Sept. 17, 2006, in Pinyon Pines. Becky’s body was found burning in a wheelbarrow outside the house. The other bodies were found inside the burning home. An affidavit from the DA’s Office stated that Haywood died from a 12-gauge shotgun wound to the chest. Vicki’s death was caused from a wound to the head, possibly from a Glock handgun. Pape was Becky’s former boyfriend.