According to Reuters, a judge ruled today that some of the statements made to detectives by accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes in the hours after the movie theater shooting that left 12 people dead in Aurora last year will be excluded as evidence in his coming trial.
Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ruled that prosecutors in the death penalty case could not introduce the statements as evidence at trial because they were made after Holmes had asked for a lawyer.
But because Holmes made the statements to detectives Chuck Mehl and Craig Appel voluntarily, they could still be used to cross-examine witnesses who provide contradictory testimony, should defense lawyers open the door to such questioning.
Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for the shooting during a midnight screening of a Batman movie in July 2012. Holmes, 25, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
“The statements made by the defendant to Detectives Mehl and Appel after he invoked his right to counsel are suppressed and may not be admitted to the prosecution’s case-in-chief,” Samour said in a written ruling.
It remained unclear what Holmes told the detectives as the statements are redacted in the ruling.
However, the 48-page opinion mentions the part when the police asked him about multiple shooters, so we can make a pretty educated guess as to what these “redacted” statements might be.
I highly doubt that the judge is barring these statements because of some sort of benevolence and in the best interests of Holmes, although that’s the story being told by the media:
The fact that the judge suppressed the statements is not surprising given that Holmes clearly had requested an attorney, said defense lawyer and legal analyst Wil Smith, who is not involved in the case.
“It is well-established case law that after a suspect invokes his right to a lawyer, any further statements are inadmissible,” said Smith, who has practiced criminal law for 30 years.
The judge (and the law enforcement officials involved in the cover-up) is probably concerned with the question of multiple shooters and multiple suspects who were involved in the shooting being brought up in court, and probably not nearly as concerned with making sure James Holmes gets a fair trial.
The judge rejected the prosecutions “arguments” that the interrogating officers weren’t sure if there were multiple suspects and needed to question him under the public safety exception, based on the weak argument that the officers had asked him about it two times already.
Samour had already ruled that Holmes’ responses to those questions asked by arresting officers are admissible. Holmes told police he acted alone, had four firearms and had booby-trapped his apartment, according to the officers’ testimony at earlier hearings.
Holmes’ lawyers claim that the police prevented them from seeing him for 13 after he asked for an attorney and also coerced him into telling them about the explosives in his apartment. Separately, the judge also denied their motion that sought to have the evidence from his car suppressed because police didn’t have a search warrant, ruling that they were dealing with an emergency situation.
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