After Suicide, Evidence in Utah Artifacts Case In Jeopardy
By Andrew Ramonas | March 22, 2022 5:40 pm

The suicide of an undercover operative may give about two dozen defendants in a controversial American Indian artifacts case the chance to quash the primary evidence in the government’s case against them, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday.

Ted Dan Gardiner shot himself earlier this month, becoming the third person connected with the cases to commit suicide. During a two-year probe, he recorded thousands of hours of undercover video of people who allegedly sold illegally obtained American Indian artifacts. Most of the defendants are from the Four Corners area of Utah near the borders of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

But the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, which gives criminal defendants the right to question witnesses, may put the video evidence in jeopardy.

“The premise of the Sixth Amendment is we have to subject the accuser to the crucible of cross-examination,” Kent Hart, executive director of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the newspaper. “This really is a hot issue in the law right now.”

Defendant Brandon Laws has filed a motion to throw out the video evidence, which is key to the government’s case. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart is slated to hear arguments on his motion Thursday.

Prosecutors have said Gardiner’s suicide will not hold up the trials of the defendants who were charged after a government raid. The raid was sharply criticized by Utah officials, including the state’s senators.

More than 100 agents, including an FBI SWAT team, participated in the June 2009 roundup of people who allegedly plundered American Indian artifacts from public land. Although some agents reportedly had drawn guns, the raids were carried out without violence, except for one suspect who claimed his toe had been broken.


One Comment

  1. says:

    I think they need to reform this law a little. Evidence shouldn’t be acquitted because the person that acquired the evidence can not be present in the court room. Of course the defendant does deserve the right to question the prosecution of the evidence. I think the evidence should still be used and in the head of the jury but they should figure some way to still ask questions about the evidence and have someone that can fully answer each question.