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Brant v. State

Supreme Court of Nevada

December 24, 2014

THOMAS EDWIN BRANT, Appellant,
v.
THE STATE OF NEVADA, Respondent

Page 577

Appeal from a judgment of conviction, pursuant to a jury verdict, of first-degree murder. Second Judicial District Court, Washoe County; Brent T. Adams, Judge.

Jeremy Bosler, Public Defender, and John Reese Petty, Chief Deputy Public Defender, Washoe County, for Appellant.

Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Carson City; Richard A. Gammick, District Attorney, and Terrence P. McCarthy, Deputy District Attorney, Washoe County, for Respondent.

Pickerin, J. We concur: Gibbons, C.J., Hardesty, J., Parraguirre, J., Douglas, J., Cherry, J., Saitta, J.

OPINION

Page 578

BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.

PICKERING, J.:

A jury convicted Thomas Brant of the first-degree murder of Kimberly Seaton, whose body was found in a shallow grave in Brant's garage. Under questioning by the police, Brant confessed to strangling Seaton. Brant's theory of defense was that another man, Robert Belsey, killed her. The defense maintained that Brant came home one night to find Seaton dead in the living room; that Brant buried Seaton without reporting her death because he did not want his sister, who owned the house, to find out Seaton had been staying there; and that Brant's confession to killing Seaton was false. In furtherance of these theories Brant designated an expert to testify on police interrogation techniques and also sought to introduce evidence of two incidents of domestic violence in which Belsey had been involved three years earlier. The district court excluded this evidence, and Brant appeals. We affirm.

I.

A.

More than a month elapsed between Seaton's disappearance and the filing of a missing person report. On receiving the missing person report, the police investigated, learned that Seaton's last-known address was Brant's house, and went there to ask Brant about her. Brant denied knowledge of Seaton's whereabouts. He told the police that Seaton had moved out at his request some weeks earlier, after he came home one night and Seaton, who was drunk and belligerent, verbally assaulted him. Brant gave the police permission to search his house and, once that was completed, the outbuildings on his property, including his detached garage.

Brant unlocked the garage and opened the door but did not follow the police inside. He and a detective (Detective Gallop) stayed outside hunting for Brant's cat, which had gotten out during the search. Beneath some pallets in the garage, the police found a body buried in a mixture of loose dirt and kitty litter. At that point, the police halted the search to obtain a search warrant. On being told by the officers that they had " found something" in the garage, Brant swooned and leaned against a tree for support. Teary-eyed, Brant said that he had " no idea" what they could have found.

Detective Gallop asked Brant to accompany him to the police station to be interviewed, and Brant agreed. The two rode together in Gallop's car. When they arrived, Brant asked to use the restroom. In the restroom, standing at the sink washing his hands, Brant said to Gallop, " I know what they found over there. She was dead when I got home Sunday night."

Gallop escorted Brant to an interview room and read Brant ...


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