Supreme Court hearing Bismarck murder appeal

Jun 7, 2018

Credit ND Supreme Court

The attorney for a Bismarck man charged with the April, 2016 murder of a Bismarck woman outside the Runnings store in South Bismarck believes the district judge made a mistake by not suppressing evidence from his interrogation.

And he's asking the North Dakota Supreme Court to overturn the conviction.

The body of 44-year-old Misty Coffelt was found outside the Runnings store April 14, 2016. 34-year-old Morris Brickle-Hicks was subsequently charged and convicted of murder in the case.

Attorney  James Lorass appealed to the state Supreme Court, arguing Brickle-Hicks was not properly given his Miranda rights. He said Brickle-Hicks waived his Miranda rights without understanding what was going on, because of a low I.Q. In oral arguments, Lorass said police were supposedly talking to Brickle-Hicks about an alleged assault that had happened to him. He said the interrogation changed to the murder. And Lorass said the statements – including a confession – should have been suppressed.

“The communications that happened here throughout the interview were things like, ‘Let me help you,’ or, ‘We’re here to try to help you,’ Lorass argued. "There’s not a passiveness here – it’s an active deception.”

Assistant Burleigh County States Attorney Julie Lawyer argued Brickle-Hicks understood what was going on. She also told the court he was wearing clothes and shoes stained with blood, and during the break, tried to rub off the blood from his sneakers.

“He knows where that blood came from," Lawyer argued. "From the outset of that interview, he knew that was Misty’s blood on his clothing. He knew he wasn’t attacked by anybody. He knows no men had tried to rob him. And when they pointed that out, you can see that he’s trying to destroy evidence.”

The Supreme Court will rule later.