Judge hears arguments in Wohali killing

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SANDPOINT — A 1st District Court judge took in arguments Tuesday on a convicted murderer Michael Ryan McDermott’s quest for a new trial.

A jury convicted McDermott of murder in the second degree last month for the shooting death of Robert Cameroen Hegseth Wohali in March. McDermott was also convicted a failing to notify authorities of Wohali’s death.

However, defense counsel for McDermott argue the latter charge should either be dismissed or he should receive a new trial in light of an Idaho Supreme Court ruling in a Kootenai County case which held that failing to notify a coroner or law enforcement violated a defendant’s right against self-incrimination.

“That charge tainted the jury and he was convicted unfairly,” Public Defender Janet Whitney said during oral arguments on the defense motion.

The high court affirmed last year the dismissal of the notification charge against a Spokane woman who dumped the body of an overdose victim in Lake Coeur d’Alene in 2015. Counsel for Laura Louise Akins successfully argued in district court that the notification charge should be dismissed because it violated her constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall objected to a new trial or a dismissal of the charge, arguing that it was a challenge that should have been raised during pretrial proceedings. Marshall also emphasized that justices were clear that their holding did not constitute a broad ruling on the constitutionality of the of the charge, which imposes a duty on persons who find or have custody of a body to promptly notify authorities.

“I don’t think this case is entirely analogous to the Akins case,” Marshall added.

Buchanan took the arguments under advisement and will issue a written decision.

McDermott, 48, remains held at the Bonner County Jail while awaiting sentencing on Dec. 3.

“I’ll have a decision out prior to that date,” Buchanan said.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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