Duke’s defense alleges false confession in Tara Grinstead case, files new motions

Duke’s defense alleges false confession in Tara Grinstead case, files new motions

IRWIN COUNTY, GA (WALB) - Ryan Duke’s attorneys have filed three new motions in the murder case against him.

Duke is accused of killing Tara Grinstead, an Irwin County teacher and beauty queen who disappeared in 2005.

The new motions come after Irwin County Superior Court Judge Bill Reinhardt overruled five motions just last week.

The newest motion is a request for an out-of-state subpoena for the production of evidence from two out of state corporations.

Duke’s attorneys, Ashleigh and John Merchant, said this is related to a recent incident where a media site leaked alleged Georgia Bureau of Investigation documents online.

Duke’s defense also re-filed a previous motion, this time as a request for funds from the state to hire an expert in the field of false confessions. His attorneys also requested the court appoint an investigator to help their team both prior to and during the trial.

Ryan Duke with his lawyers in Ocilla, November 26, 2018
Ryan Duke with his lawyers in Ocilla, November 26, 2018 (Source: WALB)

The Merchants said that with the large volume of evidence collected by the GBI over the last 13 years, their defense team will need help to review all the evidence and interview witnesses.

Both of the motions were filed before, but the defense originally requested the funds come from the county. Now, they’re asking for the funds to be provided by the state.

The defense said they also originally filed a motion to retain an expert in the field of false confessions, but it was denied under seal.

Now, they have refiled it without the seal to ask that the state be the responsible party, when they originally asked for county funds.

In this motion, the defense said Duke released a statement to the GBI, confessing he committed the crime.

The defense also alleges Duke was under the influence of narcotics when he gave the alleged confession.

Ryan Duke False Confession

“And part of the reason why we had filed that under seal before was because there hasn’t been all of this talk about the confession and things like that, alleged confession statement. And now we just refiled that not under seal,” said Ashleigh Merchant.

In a new motion, Duke’s defense argues he falsely confessed to committing crimes regarding Tara Grinstead’s disappearance and death.

WALB was on the phone all day with prosecutors, defense attorneys and even the GBI about the reportedly leaked document.

GBI investigators said it’s the largest file in state history, 90 volumes, all averaging about one inch thick.

The disappearance of Grinstead and the man accused of killing her is now well-known all over the nation.

“We’re trying to find out who published some GBI documents online,” said Ashleigh.

Ashleigh said she found an alleged GBI document was released on an online site at the beginning of this month.

“There were several documents that were reported to be a GBI summary of Ryan’s statements to the GBI,” said Ashleigh.

Ashleigh said the document outlines a statement Duke gave to the GBI, allegedly “confessing” to the crime.

Both the GBI and a member of the prosecution said they neither leaked nor posted the document.

“We know it didn’t come from our side and the prosecution said it didn’t come from their side, and we believe them,” said Ashleigh.

Just this week, Ashleigh and her husband John filed three motions as part of Duke’s defense.

One of those asked for a false confessions expert to help their team order an out-of state subpoena.

In that motion, the defense argues Duke was under the influence of narcotics when he gave the alleged confession.

“We haven’t heard any updates, so we wanted to take it into our own hands and try to find out who was publishing these documents. And because we don’t have out-of-state subpoena power, we have to get a court order,” explained Ashleigh.

GBI officials said they released all files of this case to the prosecuting attorneys, which district attorneys said they passed on to the defense team.

Now, the defense attorneys just want answers.

“So we’re trying to figure out who posted that so that we can determine what their motivation was in posting it,” said Ashleigh.

WALB was told this is still under investigation.

A member of the prosecuting team said that all of the attorneys will have a phone conference with Judge Reinhardt to discuss the venue of the trial on Friday.

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