Motion to suppress denied in Serna case


A motion seeking to suppress statements and evidence from an interview Ely R. Serna had with law enforcement has been denied.

A journal entry denying the motion to suppress was filed Wednesday, outlining a Feb. 13 hearing held in the Champaign County Common Pleas Court on the motion.

Serna, 18, was indicted last summer on 13 charges stemming from the Jan. 20, 2017, shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School.

Dennis Lieberman, Serna’s attorney, previously filed a motion to suppress statements and evidence from Serna’s interview with law enforcement following the shooting.

The defense contended Serna did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights as guaranteed by the 5th and 14th Amendments and was not given access to an attorney.

The state contended the totality of circumstances demonstrates Serna understood his Miranda rights and knowingly and voluntarily waived those rights and did not clearly and unequivocally invoke his right to counsel.

During the Feb. 13 hearing, medical experts, a Champaign County Sheriff’s detective and a relative of Serna’s testified about the events following the shooting.

In Wednesday’s journal entry, Judge Nick Selvaggio outlines eight reasons the motion to suppress was denied.

Among them, Selvaggio states the court found Serna was properly advised of his Miranda rights in a non-suggestive, non-coercive and non-threatening manner; that Serna’s relinquishment of his rights was voluntary in that it was the product of a free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion or deception; that Serna’s relinquishment of his Miranda rights was made with a full awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it; and that the court found the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation reveal both an uncoerced choice and the requisite level of comprehension needed to waive each right.

Selvaggio also states from the totality of the circumstances, the court found that it considered all of the evidence to determine Serna’s understanding which can be implied by his conduct and the situation and finds that Serna voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his Miranda rights; that a juvenile does not possess greater 6th Amendment constitutional rights than those of an adult nor do juveniles possess a statutory right to counsel at interrogations conducted prior to the filing of a juvenile complaint; and a juvenile is not entitled to have an attorney present during an interrogation that takes place prior to the filing of criminal charges, absent the juvenile invoking that right, that a juvenile however is not vested with the right to be accompanied by a parent or guardian during custodial interrogation; and that a juvenile may waive his Miranda rights with or without parental consent so long as the totality of the circumstances demonstrate that the waiver was made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.

A trial in the case is scheduled to start on April 10.


By Nick Walton

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Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.

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