Many Missoulians have reported receiving an odd survey concerning two murder suspects currently held in the Missoula County Jail. The survey call reportedly asks recipients about the guilt or innocence of August Standingrock and Tiffany Pierce, who are being accused of murdering and dismembering 15-year old Marilyn Pickett and 24-year-old Jackson Wiles. Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst says she’s heard of the calls, but that they are not from her office.

"I have heard rumors of these calls, but I have not been called by this firm myself, but I am prosecuting the case along with my colleagues, so I have heard that this is going on," Pabst said. "It  is not unusual for suspects prior to trial to try ascertain whether or not they can get a fair trial."

But using an outside firm to conduct a survey is fairly rare, Pabst says she’s only seen the technique used a handful of times.

"My best guess, and I hate to guess is that the defense attorneys are trying to decide whether or not they can get a fair trial," Pabst said. "There's been a lot of publicity about this case and we're very careful about what we say, and there's really strict guidelines about what we can and can't say, but sometimes people make up their minds before they get [to trial] and that's likely what they are trying to figure out."

Of course, the ultimate goal is a fair trial where the suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury capable of weighing the evidence on both sides. One of the reasons hiring a firm to conduct a public opinion survey on guilt or innocence is rarely used, is because it can be extremely expensive

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