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Appeals Court Rejects Appeal in Tulsa High Rise Death

01-Sep-2014

Amber Hilberling was seven months pregnant when she pushed her husband Josh through a window in their 25th floor apartment. The 23-year-old father-to-be plunged 17 stories to his death on top of a parking garage. Amber testified that she and her husband were arguing because she told him she wanted a divorce. During the argument, she says, Josh grabbed her, and she became fearful for her safety. She testified that she pushed him away from her in self defense, but she did not intend to push him through the window, and she did not intend to kill him.

Prosecutors argued that Amber was not fearful, but shoved Josh out of impulsive anger. They presented evidence including a video of Amber's discussion the defendant had with her grandmother in a police interrogation room shortly after her husband's death. The video shows Amber saying, "I pushed my husband and made him fall out of the window. . . . He was messing with the TV, and I pushed him.” This statement seemed to directly contradict her testimony that her husband was aggressive and causing her to fear for her safety.

A Tulsa County jury found the state's evidence more convincing and convicted Amber Hilberling, then 22, of second degree murder. Tulsa County District Judge Kurt G. Glassco sentenced Hilberling to 25 years in prison. Additionally, she was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $6,118.43 to the Victims Compensation Fund.

Amber Hilberling appealed her conviction on grounds of improper evidence, lack of evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel. One issue raised in her appeal was the use of the video in the interrogation room. Hilberling's attorneys argued that recording the murder suspect in the interrogation room was a violation of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion. If a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, covertly recording the person would indeed be a violation. 

However, last week the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Hilberling's appeal and affirmed her conviction. It is important for those detained by police to keep in mind that the court's ruling means that a person should not expect privacy in a police interrogation room. It is just another example of why someone accused or suspected of a crime should never, ever talk to anyone except his or her attorney about the case--not even a grandmother, and especially not at the police station.

Learn more about the Oklahoma criminal appeals process here.



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