Lawyer's double-murder trial delayed over use of subpoena rather than warrant for cellphone search

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A Missouri lawyer accused of wielding a power of attorney as a lethal weapon in the murder of her father has sidestepped a second trial over his slaying.

Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday in the double-murder trial of Susan Elizabeth Van Note, who is also accused in shooting her father’s girlfriend to death at the couple’s Sunrise Beach home on Lake of the Ozarks. But a judge has postponed the trial over a dispute about whether cellphone evidence against Van Note was properly obtained, the Kansas City Star reports.

A June trial ended in a mistrial before jury selection was completed, because of inappropriate discussions among members of the jury panel.

This time, the issue is whether the government should have gotten a warrant rather than issuing a subpoena for Van Note’s cellphone records in the Laclede County Circuit Court case, the newspaper reports.

Sharon Dickson, 59, died at the scene of the 2010 shooting. William Van Note, 67, was hospitalized and died several days later in Columbia, after his daughter used what prosecutors say was a forged power of attorney to terminate his life-supporting medical treatment.

The alleged motive for the murders was money: Prosecutors say Susan Van Note was executor of her father’s estate, but Dickson was his principal beneficiary.

Backed by her mother, Susan Van Note, 48, says she was 119 miles away in Lee’s Summit at the time of the shooting.

A probable cause statement says Van Note’s cellphone pinged a tower 7 miles from her father’s home about five minutes after he called 911, the newspaper reports.

Attorney Tom Bath represents Van Note and is seeking to suppress evidence gathered in the search of her cellphone records. He says the search was unconstitutional because authorities didn’t get a warrant. In his motion, Bath cited an Aug. 5 decision (PDF) by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said authorities need a warrant to gather an individual’s cellphone location data.

After Van Note was charged ,she was removed as personal representative of her father’s estate, which had an estimated worth of approximately $7 million.

Related coverage:

Kansas City Star (sub. req.): “Susan Van Note probate case is as curious as the murder case “

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