Appeal Planned of Ruling Barring Evidence in Officer’s Slaying Trial

Gazette State News 8-10-1978

SHERIDAN – Prosecuting Attorney John W. Cole of Sheridan said Wednesday that he would file a notice of appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court asking for a reversal of Circuit Judge Henry B. Means’ ruling that evidence Cole had planned to present in the first-degree murder trial of Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy was inadmissible.

Abernathy is charged in the death of Mrs. Linda Edwards, a Garland County deputy whose skeletal remains were found in February 1977.

Judge Means ruled Tuesday at a preliminary hearing that the testimony of a woman who said Mrs. Edwards was going to meet Abernathy the night she disappeared was not admissible because it was hearsay. Judge Means ruled that all testimony on conversations between witnesses and Mrs. Edwards would be inadmissible.

Judge Means made the ruling on a motion to suppress the testimony by defense attorney Jack Holt Jr. of Little Rock.

Destroyed Case

Cole said Wednesday that the ruling had the effect of “kicking us out of court” because it destroyed the state’s case.

He said he would file the interlocutory appeal under Rule 36.10 of the new state criminal code, which he said allows the state to appeal a preliminary ruling in a felony case if the ruling has the effect of denying the state its case.

Cole said he would attach an affidavit to the appeal stating that Judge Means’ ruling had taken away the state’s case.

He said he probably would file the notice of appeal today and that the case automatically would be continued during the appeal process.

Mrs. Edwards disappeared August 22, 1976. Her remains were found in a heavily wooded area of Hot Spring County by hunters. Abernathy is free on $50,000 bond. He has been suspended without pay since June 1977, when he was charged with the crime.

Before Judge Means issued his ruling Tuesday, Sarah Edwards, a State Police dispatcher, had testified that Linda Edwards and Abernathy had an affair for three years before her death and that Linda Edwards became pregnant and told her that Abernathy was the father of the baby.

She testified that Linda Edwards and Abernathy had numerous arguments about whether she should have an abortion.

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