The attorney for the go-between in a Valentine’s Day murder-for-hire scheme argued for an appeal Monday on the grounds of unlawfully obtained and unsuppressed phone records.
Lynitra McKale Ross, of Austell, was convicted in May 2012 for her connection to the murder of Richard Schoeck two years prior. She received a life sentence for sending messages between Schoeck’s wife, Stacey, and the shooter, Reginald Coleman.
Ross’ attorney, Mark Yurachek, argued in front of the Georgia Supreme Court for an appeal of her life sentence and conviction in the case because of the phone records.
“In short, the taint of the unlawfully obtained tower dump records pervades most of the state’s evidence, which necessarily, then, must also be suppressed,” Yurachek wrote in his briefs.
Stacey Schoeck said during the 2012 trial that she intended to have her husband killed, believing he had been abusing her two sons.
The Schoecks planned to smoke marijuana together and exchange cards on Valentine’s Day 2010 at Belton Bridge Park in North Hall County. Coleman later pleaded guilty to shooting Richard Schoeck at the park.
Investigators obtained phone records for Stacey Schoeck, showing that Ross contacted Stacey Schoeck on the night of the murder. Coleman’s and Ross’ names also appeared in a data extraction search of Stacey Schoeck’s phone.
Following this, a “tower dump” of records for calls made by Sprint customers was requested, showing that Coleman’s phone contacted Ross’ phone on Feb. 14, 2010. The location of where Coleman made the call implicated Ross in the murder plot.
“Congress has mandated that cell towers be able to locate cell phones within a certain proximity for 911 calls,” Yurachek said.
Yurachek argued in the appeal that the search for records did not target any one individual, saying that the search cast a wide net for suspects.
Justices David Nahmias and Harold Melton raised concerns about whether Ross had been affected by such a search to warrant an appeal.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance argued other evidence was obtained through Schoeck’s testimony, and the data extraction from her phone.
“Parties don’t have standing to contest business records,” Vance said.
Coleman’s phone was located close to the crime scene when he called Ross.
“The only information in this case was a phone number,” Vance said.
With evolving technology, less caselaw on cellphone evidence exists, Yurachek argued. Recent cases before the U.S. Supreme Court have led Justice Sonia Sotomayor and others to contend for greater privacy.
“All have expressed concern over the ability to monitor a person’s movement vis a vis their cellphone,” Yurachek said.
A decision on the appeal should come within six months, according to the court.