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Defense moves to suppress confession in prison homicide

Eric Hall

A defense attorney for the man accused of killing a fellow inmate at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility has moved to suppress a confession as evidence in his trial, accusing law enforcement and prosecutors from the Webster County Attorney’s Office of bribing the defendant to induce the confession.

The motion filed Monday by attorney Paul Rounds for Eric Hall argues multiple grounds of constitutional rights violations. Hall, 44, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of former inmate Thomas Daleske, who was found dead in his cell on June 14.

Rounds argued in the motion that Hall was questioned in violation of his right to legal counsel, had his cell searched with an overly broad search warrant and gave a falsely induced confession to killing Daleske when he was promised cash and a vehicle in exchange.

Rounds accused First Assistant County Attorney Ryan Baldridge of directing the interrogation of Hall, engaging him in “questionably ethical negotiations” with an offer to return seized property and deliver other rewards through the defendant’s brother. The public defender has asked the court to suppress the subsequent confessions from Hall as involuntary, false statements induced by the offers.

“Although I cannot comment on a pending matter, generally speaking, when a defense attorney makes arguments regarding a possible suppression of evidence, they believe they are doing so in their client’s best interest,” Baldridge told The Messenger. “Naturally, the state typically disagrees with a defendant’s motion to suppress and the judge makes the final determination.”

Hall was charged after the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation determined he had been inside the victim’s cell shortly before Daleske’s unresponsive body was discovered. Video surveillance at the prison shows Hall entering Daleske’s cell alone and leaving six minutes later, according to the criminal complaint.

The State Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide by strangulation with blunt force injuries to the head, neck and chest. It’s unclear if any weapon was used.

Rounds also argued that the search warrant granted to seize items from Hall’s prison cell was unconstitutionally overbroad, authorizing large categories of evidence such as clothing, face masks, towels, bedding, trash, contraband and hair to be collected without limitations. He also says application for the warrant did not provide any probable cause that the items were connected to the killing.

“The court should adopt a (clearly defined, objective) rule that the dominance of overly broad language (in a search warrant) is fatal to the admission of any evidence discovered pursuant to the warrant,” Rounds said.

Daleske, 59, was serving a 45-year sentence for multiple convictions out of Warren County, including sexual abuse and lascivious acts with a child. He had been incarcerated since October 2000.

Hall was serving a sentence for third-degree burglary that started in April 2019 after being convicted for a rash of break-ins at businesses across the state. His release was tentatively scheduled for November 2023.

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