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Judge denies all defense motions to suppress evidence in Kimberly Kessler trial

Kessler is accused of killing her Nassau County salon co-worker

A judge has denied all motions filed by Kimberly Kessler’s defense to suppress evidence in her trial in the murder of Joleen Cummings, her co-worker at a Nassau County salon. Kessler’s lawyers said in the first motion that Kessler was located through unlawful use of cellphone site technology, so any evidence gathered as a result of the unlawful detention in St. Johns County — days after Cummings disappeared in May 2018 — should be suppressed. That motion was previously denied.
A judge has denied all motions filed by Kimberly Kessler’s defense to suppress evidence in her trial in the murder of Joleen Cummings, her co-worker at a Nassau County salon. Kessler’s lawyers said in the first motion that Kessler was located through unlawful use of cellphone site technology, so any evidence gathered as a result of the unlawful detention in St. Johns County — days after Cummings disappeared in May 2018 — should be suppressed. That motion was previously denied.

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – A judge has denied all motions filed by Kimberly Kessler’s defense to suppress evidence in her trial in the murder of Joleen Cummings, her co-worker at a Nassau County salon.

Kessler’s lawyers said in the first motion that Kessler was located through unlawful use of cellphone site technology, so any evidence gathered as a result of the unlawful detention in St. Johns County — days after Cummings disappeared in May 2018 — should be suppressed. That motion was previously denied.

On Friday, Judge James Daniel issued a 31-page order denying the other nine motions, in which Kessler’s defense said:

  • Statements that Kessler made to St. Johns County deputies should be suppressed because she was questioned before she was read her Miranda rights.
  • Statements that she made at the St. Johns County jail should be suppressed because they were the fruit of the unlawful arrest on a charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle. The arrest came after, according to investigators, Kessler was seen on surveillance video in Cummings’ vehicle.
  • All physical evidence recovered in Kessler’s car — including the blood of Cummings on a pair of scissors — should be suppressed because of an unlawful search.
  • All the physical evidence recovered from her storage unit, including Kesslers’ shoes that had Cummings’ blood on them, should be suppressed because it was an illegal search.

Daniel ruled that Kessler was not in custody when she was questioned by deputies, so Miranda warnings were not required. The judge found that the answers Kessler gave to armed deputies at a rest area in St. Johns County were in response to proper questions in a missing persons case.

“The judge said overall, to a reasonable person, she was not being detained, so therefore she did not have to be advised of her Miranda rights,” said attorney Gene Nichols, who is not affiliated with the case. “The judge was pretty clear in his order when he said that once she was getting out of the vehicle, the guns were holstered, she was questioned in a missing persons case, and that she had the right to leave.”

Nichols said that decision voided most of the other claims made by Kessler’s defense about improper evidence.

“If those statements had been suppressed, it could’ve been a snowball effect suppressing a tremendous amount,” Nichols said.

The judge found that deputies had probable cause to arrest Kessler on the grand theft of a motor vehicle charge based on surveillance video evidence, and thus the statements she made and the evidence seized at the St. Johns County jail lawfully obtained.

The judge ruled the warrant to search Kessler’s car was lawful, as that search was done six days after Cummings disappeared and investigators had established Kessler’s “probable criminality” in her death.

Nichols said that while he agrees with the judge’s decision to continue to include the evidence Kessler’s team wanted to be thrown out, it really could have gone either way on Miranda rights.

“It is not as cut and dry as you may guess,” Nichols said.

If Kessler is found guilty, her attorneys can appeal the verdict on the grounds of the evidence rulings.

Kessler’s trial is still scheduled for December. Her pretrial hearing has been moved to Oct. 28.


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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter