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Tucson child murders: Could Maricopa cases knock out key evidence?

Hearings in Clements other cases resume Friday
Posted at 5:08 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 21:56:43-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - The man charged with killing 6 year old Isabel Celis and 13 year old Maribel Gonzalez will be back in court tomorrow—-but in Maricopa County Superior Court over evidence in an unrelated case.

But could that argument over evidence affect the case here? KGUN9 asked an experienced defense attorney.

Christopher Clements is facing fraud and burglary charges in Maricopa County. His attorneys are trying to convince a judge there to throw out evidence seized when Maricopa County Detectives served a search warrant on Clements jail cell.

They were serving the warrant for Tucson Police Detectives searching for items like photos of the Celis family house.

Last week a now retired detective said they did find pictures in what’s called a legal box---a collection of sensitive legal documents inmates like Clements are allowed to have. Authorities are not supposed to look at the items inside unless they are specified in the search warrant. The detectives collected what was in the warrant but thought the safe thing to do was take the whole box including papers related to the Maricopa cases, and send it to a special attorney for review.

Veteran defense attorney Mike Piccarreta is not involved in this case, but we asked him if the dispute over Maricopa County evidence could affect the murder cases here.

He says it could.

“Maricopa and Pima County worked jointly on behalf of the State of Arizona; so the actions of the investigators up there will bind the State of Arizona and Pima County. The question becomes, did they exceed the scope of the warrant? Did they execute it lawfully, was the warrant over broad?”

Piccarreta says it was a good move to request a neutral attorney to review what’s in the legal box but it would have also been smart to call a judge and get a second search warrant to allow seizing the box.

Either way, Piccarreta expects a Pima County hearing on what evidence can be used in the murder cases but the Maricopa judge’s ruling could influence how the Pima County judge rules.

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