VALPARAISO — The Indiana Appellate Court has tossed out a Hobart man's confession to murdering a Portage woman outside a Chesterton bar last year, saying that police ignored the man's repeated requests for an attorney.
Christopher Dillard requested an attorney three times during the nearly 11 hours he was held in a small interrogation room at the Chesterton Police Department, the court said in its 27-page ruling.
He was also denied repeated requests for medications and was questioned, in part, while lying face down on the floor trying to rest, the court said.
"Even if we were to conclude that he initiated further communication leading to his incriminating statements, Dillard never knowingly or voluntarily waived his right to counsel based on the jarring totality of the circumstances outlined above," the court ruled.
The appellate court tossed out all but about an hour and a half of the interrogation conducted by Chesterton Police Chief David Cincoski, which eliminates Dillard's confession and other self-incriminating statements, according to defense attorney Bob Harper.
"No incriminating statements are left in, period," Harper said.
Harper lauded the court for coming to its conclusion after taking a look at the totality of the lengthy interrogation and the "uncomfortable situation" in which Dillard was placed.
While the ruling deals a heavy blow to prosecutors, Harper said he expects the case will still go to trial.
Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said, "After reviewing the Court of Appeals decision, we have spoken with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and have requested that they petition the Indiana Supreme Court to further review the matter."
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Dillard, 52, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Nicole Gland, 23, of Portage, on April 19, 2017 by stabbing her in her vehicle in a parking area behind the former Upper Deck Lounge, 139 S. Calumet Road, in Chesterton.
Dillard, who was picked up by police the same day, told his girlfriend while at the Chesterton Police Department, "I killed that girl. I didn't mean to," according to the charging information.
"He indicated to her that the drugs had a hold of him," police have said.
The confession came late about 12 hours after the interrogation began and during a period when Dillard was left alone in the recorded room with his girlfriend, according to court records. He had asked police to contact her to bring his medications and said he would talk further to police after her visit.
But the appellate court said Dillard never waived his three requests for an attorney.
The court said Senior Judge Thomas Webber erred in his earlier determination to throw out part of the interrogation, but allow use of the confession.