AMITE — Portions of recorded interviews police conducted with accused murderer Michael Varnado are inadmissible if the questions asked contain hearsay, a state judge ruled Tuesday.
At issue are not Varnado’s answers to the questions, but the questions themselves, state District Judge Wayne Ray Chutz said.
They contain hearsay information that the jury should not hear, he said.
“To the extent that the statements are hearsay, they are inadmissible,” Chutz told Don Wall, an assistant district attorney in the 21st Judicial District.
If, however, Varnado answered any question affirmatively, that question is admissible, Chutz said.
The state would not be allowed to present portions of the interviews which contain questions for which Varnado’s reply is inaudible or negative, Chutz said.
The state plans to present witnesses who would testify to the things contained in the questions, Wall said.
Chutz said that if other witnesses were to testify to the facts contained in the questions, then the questions would become admissible.
“But for now, the statement is inadmissible,” Chutz said.
Chutz asked the attorneys to give him an update on a piece of evidence that was lost for months before being found earlier this year.
The evidence — a strand of hair — has been sent to a DNA lab in Texas, said Mike Thiel, attorney for Varnado.
The normal turnaround on evidence from the laboratory is 45 days, Thiel said.
The hair has been at the lab for about three weeks, Thiel said.
The hair was part of the evidence Thiel had demanded during the discovery phase, but the State Police Crime Laboratory lost it, Thiel
Just before a hearing earlier this summer, crime lab personnel located the hair and gave it to Thiel, he said.
Thiel said the law requires him to share the results of the DNA analysis with the state.
Chutz set a tentative trial date of Sept. 12.
Varnado is accused of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a woman and her two children on Feb. 16, 2007.
Varnado is alleged to have killed Juana Quanatell Roberts, 20, and then set fire to the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer in which she lived with her two children: Demetrios James Collier, 2 months, and Mykell Janay Roberts, 1.
Varnado could face the death penalty if convicted.