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No new trial for carjackers

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Two federal inmates have lost their bid for a new trial for a 2017 carjacking that resulted in serious bodily injury. The inmates said their lawyers should have been allowed to ask two trial witnesses if their perception of reality had been altered by their meth use.

A panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the convictions, with one of the three judges dissenting.

Ranson Long Pumpkin and Moses Crowe were found guilty for their roles in carjacking Phillip Moore’s van and severely beating Moore.

The two assailants and the victim were part of a group that also included Vanessa High Pipe and Jessica Maho.

At trial in Rapid City, defense attorneys wanted to question High Pipe and Maho about their drug use during the incident and before they testified. But Federal District Judge Jeffrey Viken turned them down, citing the witnesses’ Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves.

At oral arguments before the Eighth Circuit in October 2021, Crowe was represented by Eric Davis. He told judges that self-incrimination shouldn’t be an issue, because before trial, High Pipe and Maho had already incriminated themselves.

“Jessica and Vanessa voluntarily walked into a United States federal building and voluntarily confessed to being presently high on methamphetamine to government prosecutors,” he said.

Davis said the two women had a full grant of immunity, and so they did not face criminal charges for drug use if they answered questions about it in open court.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Kelderman said Judge Viken recognized that the two women still faced repercussions in state court, where they could face revocation of previously suspended sentences.

Kelderman said even without High Pipe and Maho, the defendants would have been found guilty on the strength of the victim’s testimony alone.

“He provided enough evidence across the board to sustain the convictions here,” Kelderman said.

In the opinion, Judges Steven Colloton and Bobby Shepherd upheld Judge Viken’s decision, saying that the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses has exceptions, and a witness’s Fifth Amendment right is one of them.

Judge Jane Kelly dissented. She said the effect of the meth use on the women’s memories and perceptions could not be established by other witnesses, but only by the meth users themselves.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007.
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  • Two federal inmates found guilty of carjacking, beating, and shooting at a Rapid City man have appealed their convictions to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ranson Long Pumpkin says the trial judge should have allowed his lawyer to ask government witnesses about their drug use. And Moses Crowe says he should not have been convicted of carjacking because that part of the crime had been completed before he arrived on the scene.