Evidentiary hearing scheduled for Oct. 24
On December 1, 2017, a Grand Jury impaneled in Polk County returned an indictment against Eddie Markeith Frazier, the man accused of murdering Tawnja Rene Wallace in a downtown Crookston apartment in May 2017, for two counts of murder in the first degree and two counts of murder in the second degree, and the defense attorney for Frazier seeks to dismiss the indictment saying there was “absolutely” no evidence presented that Frazier “considered, planned, prepared for, or determined to commit the act before he committed it.” The defense also claimed that inadmissible evidence was presented to the grand jury which “tainted” the proceedings.
Assistant Public Defender Eric Gudmundson claims that testimony from the first and second witnesses, which included an officer and an investigator from the Bloomington Police Department, was irrelevant and highly prejudicial regarding Mr. Frazier’s parole or probation status. The defense also argued that a Crookston detective’s testimony, with “inadmissible evidence”, had a significant impact on grand jurors and that, later, Ms. Wallace’s mother’s testimony held irrelevant evidence that had “nothing to do with whether Mr. Frazier had killed Ms. Wallace” and that “the only thing this type of terribly sad and emotional testimony could do was inflame the passions of the grand jurors against Mr. Frazier.”
Also inside the Grand Jury transcript, it’s reported that a Crookston detective received information from someone that Mr. Frazier had taken a video or video chatted Mrs. Wallace’s deceased body in the bathtub to an individual in Minneapolis and said, “I just killed the b**** do you think she’s dead?” which was counted as inadmissible hearsay. One of the grand jurors alleged response to the advice that it was hearsay was, “Well, it wasn’t fake news anyway.”
In the Memorandum of Law Opposing Admissibility of Hearsay Statements filed by the defense on September 7, 2018, they say that the state’s evidence is insufficient to show that he forfeited his right to confrontation. They ask for a full evidentiary hearing so that Frazier has a “full and fair” opportunity for meaningful cross-examination of the State’s witnesses arguing that Frazier did not have the opportunity during the Grand Jury. The defense says there is a dispute regarding whether Frazier murdered Wallace otherwise the case wouldn’t be scheduled for trial. They ask the court to consider Mr. Frazier’s phone calls with Latira West where Ms. West testified that Frazier called her bawling saying that he was sorry and that he didn’t mean to kill Wallace. Ms. West testified that there were approximately 42 phone calls between them and that they had approximately 12 different conversations. The defense also mentioned the phone call that Frazier made to Tekelia West, Wallace’s daughter, where Frazier reportedly told her that he was sorry and that he was not trying to hurt Wallace. The defense says the phone calls provide a “direct look” into Frazier’s mental state - contemporaneous with the time of the alleged murder.
Also in the Memo, the defense argues that there is evidence, along with the testimony from a Crookston Police Department Sargent, that Frazier went to the emergency room with Wallace hours prior to when the alleged murder occurred. They argue that it is illogical to think that he would have helped her seek medical treatment only hours before he was planning to kill her to prevent her from testifying. Additionally, the defense asks the court to consider the logical problems with the state’s assertion that Frazier premeditatedly killed Wallace. The defense says that the facts of the case are more in line with an “argument-gone-wrong” than they are with a premeditated killing, and asked the court to deny the State’s motions. The defense added that the crime allegedly happened in the heart of downtown Crookston and that should raise a red flag for the court because if Frazier possessed the manipulative hold on Wallace that the State argues, he would have had no problem isolating Wallace from the city of Crookston to carry out the alleged murder in the middle of a populated area.
Days later, Assistant County Attorney Scott Buhler sent a response to the Memo saying he did not dispute that the defendant is entitled to a hearing on this issue though he disagrees with the nature of the required hearing. Buhler argues that Wallace’s family members should not have to travel to testify at another hearing absent a “very compelling” reason to do so “and not just because defense counsel wants a free shot at cross-examining them.” He adds that, in this case, the only truly contested issue is whether the defendant intended to cause Wallace’s unavailability as a witness. Buhler says the simplest and most direct evidence of the defendant’s intent to make Wallace unavailable as a “witness” is the defendant’s assault upon Wallace shortly before her death, the interruption of Wallace’s 911 call, the defendant’s call back to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office using a false name, and the defendant’s barricading himself inside Wallace’s apartment when the officers arrived to investigate the hang-up 911 call.
Buhler adds that, while the defense is asking the court to view the evidence in a light most favorable to the defendant when deciding this issue, not to ignore the facts of the case as well as reality.
“The defendant’s actions, including his prior assaults upon T.R.W., interfering with T.R.W.’s 911 call, strangling T.R.W. for four minutes or more after having beaten her, staging the crime scene, using a false name and lying to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher, packing up most of his belongings, stealing and using T.R.W.’s EBT card, stopping off to purchase alcohol, stealing T.R.W.’s car, lying to T.R.W.’s family members, fleeing from Crookston all the way to the Twin Cities, fleeing from law enforcement (even after being shot), and hiding in a stranger’s shed, without once making a call to law enforcement to report T.R.W.’s death - all point to the defendant’s intent to kill T.R.W.,” Buhler stated. “Those actions do not even remotely suggest that the defendant was ‘panic-stricken’.”
“For the same reasons, defense counsel’s ‘argument-gone-wrong’ theory simply does not hold water when compared to the defendant’s actions,” he added. “I also am not aware of the ‘heart of downtown Crookston’ being some kind of murder-free zone, as defense counsel suggests, making any murder committed there unintentional rather than premeditated and/or intentional.”
Attached to the response to the Memo was Exhibit A, Eddie Markeith Frazier’s criminal history which consisted of 20 felony convictions (including attempted kidnapping, fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, theft, forgery, burglary and attempted identity theft) and three domestic assault convictions.
Next in the case, an evidentiary hearing is tentatively scheduled for October 24, 2018.