All evidence can be used in the trial of a woman accused of killing an Austin woman and kidnapping her baby, a state district judge ruled Thursday, after defense attorneys argued the evidence had been improperly gathered.
Defense attorney Brian Erskine, who is representing Magen Fieramusca, argued that on Dec. 19, 2019, police entered Fieramusca's Houston home without a warrant, and he called for the evidence to be suppressed.
Fieramusca has been accused of strangling Austin mom Heidi Broussard to death and planning to pretend Broussard's two-week-old daughter was her own.
'Please go get that baby': Defense in Heidi Broussard case alleges evidence was improperly gathered
"With Fieramusca we have a physically present person at the scene," Erskine said. "They didn't ask her for permission. They jumped the fence and let themselves in."
However, state District Judge Selena Alvarenga denied Erskine's motion.
In March, a Texas Ranger testified that while investigators entered the house without a warrant, it was to make sure the baby, Margot Carey, was safe. Police are allowed to enter a home without a warrant in an emergency. In this case, authorities testified, they were concerned for the baby's life and believed Fieramusca was a threat to the child.
The ranger also said that they did not search the house or vehicle until warrants were signed several hours later, despite a clear smell of decomposition coming from Fieramusca's vehicle.
Alvarenga ruled that the warrantless entry into the home was justified.
"Based on the totality of the circumstances and information, I find that police had reasonable and probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed, specifically the crime of kidnapping," Alvarenga said. "(The situation) required immediate action because they believe a mom and her newborn baby had been kidnaped and were in danger."
On Thursday, Erskine argued that investigators had illegally detained and questioned Fieramusca, so her statements from that time should not be used.
After days of following leads that led investigators to Fieramusca's Houston home, they retrieved the baby then detained Fieramusca in the backyard of the home, shared with her then-boyfriend Christopher Green, for roughly seven hours while they waited for warrants, authorities testified in March.
A ranger testified that he told Fieramusca she had the right to remain silent while she was detained outside.
Prosecutor Guillermo Gonzalez on Thursday said Fieramusca was detained in her backyard with access to necessities, including food, water, clothes and the bathroom. He said that she was not under formal arrest, so Miranda rights were not warranted.
"Fieramusca was not in custody, but she was the focus of an investigation, and focus does not meet the degree for purposes of Miranda," Gonzalez told the court. "She was not handcuffed. Officers had guns but no one pointed it at her, she was not subject to a formal interview and for the most part largely the interactions are completely informal."
However, Gonzalez said, she was denied the ability to use her phone and could not access her vehicle.
On Thursday, Alvarenga stated that about one hour into Fieramusca's detaining, law enforcement read her Miranda rights, because she believed that law enforcement then knew the situation was turning custodial in nature.
"Before and after she is read her rights, she clearly requested for a lawyer," Alvarenga said. "There was nothing ambiguous about her request. However, shortly after, she continued to engage in conversation with law enforcement, and at one point she even requested to talk to them. The nature of the conversation as heard in the recording would indicate that she was not being forced to talk to them and was voluntarily doing so."
Alvarenga then denied the request to suppress evidence on those terms.
Broussard and Carey vanished on Dec. 12, 2019, sparking a frantic search that drew national attention. A neighbor of Broussard's told police that she saw Broussard and Fieramusca hug outside Broussard's Austin apartment and that Broussard got into Fieramusca's car with the baby, authorities said.
Police said they later found Broussard's body in a duffel bag in the trunk of a car outside Fieramusca's home in Houston.
A grand jury in early 2020 indicted Fieramusca on a capital murder charge, accusing her of asphyxiating Heidi Broussard by "ligature strangulation, with a leash and with her hand," the indictment document says.
Fieramusca has been held in the Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle since her arrest.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Heidi Broussard case: All evidence allowed in Magen Fieramusca trial