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Jul
26

Confession of former criminal defense attorney to be used at trial

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Jason Keller is accused of smuggling drugs, a cell phone and a cell phone charging device into the Maricopa County Jail during “legal visits” he conducted with various inmates.  Mr. Keller’s defense lawyer recently filed a motion challenging the means by which his confession was obtained by the Sheriff’s Office and argued that it should not be admitted because it was involuntarily made by the former defense attorney.

The Court reviewed the confession and denied the defendant’s motion:

The Court has considered Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Statements as a Result of Involuntariness and the State’s Response thereto.  The Court has reviewed the transcript of the interview conducted of Defendant immediately following his arrest.  The Court has also considered the evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing held on the motion.  (A CD of the interview was admitted into evidence but the Court was unable to view it as it was not compatible with the Court’s computer.)

Defendant argues rather broadly that the Defendant’s statements should be suppressed as involuntary because of his “vulnerable” state of mind and alleged promises made to him by the police officers.  

The Court finds that the statements taken from the interview transcript and set forth in the Defendant’s motion are piecemeal excerpts and are not cited in any chronological order.  This results in a skewed representation of what was said by each party and/or at what point the statements were made during the interview.  The Court reviewed the transcript of the interview in its entirety.

In Arizona, confessions are presumed to be involuntary and it is the burden of the State to overcome this presumption.  State v. Scott, 177 Ariz. 131, 836 P.2nd 792 (1993).  A court must look at the totality of the circumstances when determining the voluntariness of a defendant’s statements.  Scott, id.; State v. Arnett, 119 Ariz. 38, 579 P.2d 542 (1946).  While personal circumstances of the defendant may be considered, the critical element in a voluntariness inquiry is whether police conduct constituted overreaching.  State v. Stanley, 167 Ariz. 519, 809 P.2d. 944 (1991).

 

The interview viewed in its entirety demonstrates that Defendant who was a licensed attorney was aware of his rights and was also very aware of the potential consequences of talking to the police without an attorney present to advise him.  He admitted that he was exhausted, Having not slept for two days and that it was not unusual for him to go without sleep for five, six and even up to thirteen days.  He admitted that the last time he had used methamphetamine was the Friday before the interview but never admitted that he was under the influence of any drug at the time of the interview.  He was coherent and contemplative of his actions, his personal life and the impact of the alleged criminal activities on his future.  The Defendant was never left alone and he remained awake during the entire interview.  The police officers did not exhibit any coercive or abusive behavior during the interview.

 

The Defendant also alleges that based on his prior experience with Detective Coste as an attorney representing a defendant and being present during a “free talk”, that he was essentially induced into believing that he would receive some benefit from talking to the officers following his arrest.  The transcript does not substantiate this claim.  Defendant is informed initially that he is in a “little bit different position here” than Defendant’s client was in because Defendant’s client participated in a “free talk.” 

 

Detective Coste advised Defendant many times that he could not make any promises and that it was up to the Attorney General as to what would happen.  He did tell the Defendant that he would tell the both the prosecuting attorney and the Initial Appearance judge that he was cooperative.

 After Defendant had discussed with the detectives the contraband (including drugs, a cell phone and a cell phone charger) he did ask Detective Coste if he was picking up new charges by talking.  He was told that the charges were relating to the “stuff” they had already talked about that day and already knew about.  Detective Coste later told him again that he would tell the prosecuting attorney about how the Defendant cooperated with the detectives and that the Defendant “knows how the system works” and “knows what happens at that point when the attorneys get that information.”  These statements of Detective Coste do not support Defendant’s position that he relied either on his past experience with Detective Coste or the “promises” made during the interview before making his statements immediately following his arrest.

 The Defendant has not demonstrated to the Court that his will was overborne or that he relied on promises made by the detectives prior to making his statements during the interview or that the police officers were overreaching in any manner during the interview. 

Categories : Criminal Law
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