Nichols' Statements Will Be Used In Trial
MARINETTE - A judge ruled Wednesday that a Peshtigo man's statements to police about his role in the slaying of another squirrel hunter -- including that he shot and stabbed the man -- can be used in his murder trial.
Attorneys for James Nichols had argued the statements should not be used because many of them were made after Nichols told police he wanted an attorney. But Marinette County Circuit Judge David Miron disagreed, saying they were properly obtained.
Nichols, 29, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the Jan. 5 killing of Cha Vang, 30, of Green Bay, while both were hunting on public land south of Peshtigo. The murder trial starts Oct. 1.
Nichols, who has worked as a logger and at sawmills, told investigators he shot and stabbed Vang in self-defense after a confrontation in which Nichols told Vang to leave the area because he was interfering with his squirrel hunting, according to a criminal complaint.
Nichols told detectives Vang shot him first in the hand.
Miron heard testimony from 11 witnesses, including police, an emergency room nurse and a doctor. Police spoke with Nichols on Jan. 5 at Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette after he went there with gunshot wounds to his hands.
At issue was how police officers questioned Nichols and when they read him his Miranda rights, advising him of his right not to answer questions and to have an attorney.
Miron ruled Nichols was not in police custody during early parts of the questioning, so officers did not have to remind him of his rights. Miron also ruled that police questioning after Nichols asked for a lawyer was appropriate under a "rescue doctrine" exemption to the Miranda rights that allows police to continue asking questions in an attempt to save someone's life.
Miron excluded some statements Nichols made later during a ride to an Appleton hospital. Officers asked him definitions of weapons and other details, which the judge said was improper.
In testimony, Sheriff's detective Tony O'Neill said he talked to Nichols while he lay on a gurney in the hospital.
"I told him he wasn't under arrest and didn't have to talk to me and that I was tape recording the interview," O'Neill testified.
O'Neill said he asked Nichols if he was aware of his rights. "He said, 'You don't have to go there,"' O'Neill said.
Eventually, O'Neill read the Miranda rights to Nichols, the detective said.
"After that, he said he didn't want to talk anymore without an attorney," O'Neill said.
Before he left the exam room, O'Neill told Nichols he wasn't going to ask more any more questions but remarked that he was concerned that the hunter in the woods was still alive.
"When I left the room, I asked him to consider it," he said.
O'Neill said he was summoned back to the room.
"(Nichols) told me he wanted to help us find the other hunter," O'Neill said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)