By Jared Ritz
The Montana Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to 21 years in prison in connection with a double homicide in Havre three years ago.
The court overturned the conviction of Jacob Gary Spang of Havre on Friday.
Spang was convicted of two counts of intimidation by accountability and one count of tampering with physical evidence on June 13, 2000. He was sentenced on Aug. 7 of that year to 21 years in prison.
The Supreme Court agreed with Spang's contention that his rights were violated during his second interrogation by Havre police officers at the Cascade County Regional Detention Facility. Spang, who was 18 at the time, was interviewed on Sept. 17, a day of his arrest, and again on Sept. 19.
Havre Police Chief Kevin Olson, who was assistant chief at the time, drove to Great Falls to interrogate Spang about his involvement with the homicides. During the second interrogation, Spang said, ", I need a lawyer, man," according to the court's opinion.
Spang's attorney contended in his appeal that Spang invoked his right to counsel, and that all interrogation should have stopped at that point.
Olson asked Spang if he wanted to continue talking until a lawyer was present, and then asked if Spang would like to talk about what they had spoken about at the first interrogaton on Sept. 17, the opinion said.
Spang continued to answer questions and admitted reloading the gun that Spang's friend, Reid Danell, eventually used in the killings. He also said he ripped out phone cords at the home of one of the victims, and took items from the victim's garage. The admissions were used in court.
Olson could not be reached for comment today.
In their opinion, the justices said all information obtained from the interrogation after Spang made his request for an attorney was obtained unlawfully and cannot be used in court.
Carl White, the attorney who defended Spang at trial, said he is happy with the court's decision.
"(The prosecution's) evidence was very doubtful to begin with," he said. "They are going to have trouble retrying this case."
Hill County Attorney David Rice, who did not try the original case, said he has not fully digested all the information nessesary to decide whether to have a second trial and is not sure what course of action he will take.
"I haven't made my desicion yet," he said. He expects to announce his decision in a couple of days.
Danell was convicted of homicide in the slayings of Kristi Walker and Kevin Caplette of Havre. They were found dead of gunshot wounds at Walker's residence.
Danell and Spang were arrested in Great Falls. Danell later admitted to shooting the victims, according to court records.
A jury on June 13, 2000, found Spang not guilty of deliberate homicide and theft but guilty of intimidation by accountability and tampering with physical evidence.
One of the five justices, Jim Rice, dissented.