Local News

Outcome Of Ann Miller Kontz Trial May Hinge On Admissibility Of Affadavit

Posted December 14, 2004

— Investigators believe Derril Willard had an affair with Ann Miller Kontz, then committed suicide once he was questioned about the poisoning of her former husband Eric Miller. There is a big debate over whether his statement can be used at trial because he cannot be cross-examined.

When Willard's statement stating Miller Kontz told him that she injected her former husband's IV with some kind of substance was read in court, the defense and prosecution could not disagree more about its admissibility at trial.

UNC-Chapel Hill law professor Ken Broun said he thought neither side was right and that the case is far too complicated to claim the legal high ground.

The professor thinks Judge Donald Stephens bears another burden -- whether to allow all of Willard's statement to his attorney, which is something Stephens and the Supreme Court restricted in earlier rulings. It may or may not damage Willard as well, but it is something the defense will fight to bring out.

"If they cannot have access to the full statement by Derril Willard, they would not have a fair opportunity to assess the credibility of the statement that implicates Ann Miller Kontz," Broun said.

Lawyer Rick Gammon fought to protect Willard's statement under attorney/client privilege and lost.

"You crack the door and somebody is going to drive an elephant through it and we may see that happen in this case," Gammon said.

Gammon said he also sees a tough decision for the judge, but he fully expects to be on the stand.

"There's no question in my mind that Judge Stephens will rule that this particular piece of evidence is admissible," Gammon said.

Gammon argues it is all or nothing for the statement. He thinks the case will be overturned if the judge allows only a portion of Willard's words entered at trial.

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