Judge says sex crime statement to police can't be used in court
Friday, February 22, 2013 10:00 AM
Statements made to a police detective by a Madison man related to a sexual misconduct investigation cannot be entered into evidence in a case, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Authorities questioned Kevin E. Chadwell, 19, in regards to an alleged rape, according to Det. Capt. Keith Hartman with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.
Chadwell was interviewed at the jail on April 26, 2012, where he was being held on an unrelated charge.
On July 12, 2012, officials charged Chadwell with one count of sexual misconduct with a minor. Hartman wrote in the probable cause affidavit that Chadwell admitted to the allegations after he "initially denied any contact" with the alleged victim.
Pat Magrath, Chadwell's defense attorney, argued that the admission was made after a request for an attorney was made. He filed a motion to suppress any statements made after the request for an attorney.
According to the transcript, Chadwell told Hartman during the interview: "I'd rather have my lawyer, you know what I mean, so I don't get tied up in, you know what I mean." Chadwell went on to say he would take a polygraph test.
Hartman said he typically listens for a direct, demanding statement requesting a lawyer, and in this case, he said Chadwell went on and offered the statement about a polygraph without being prompted. Hartman said he felt Chadwell wanted to continue.
"At that time I don't think he clearly invoked his right to counsel," Hartman said during the hearing, referring to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constituion. "When he continued to speak, that was an indication to me he wanted to continue speaking."
Chief Deputy Prosecutor D.J. Mote argued that case law suggests officers do not have to ask clarifying statements about requests for lawyers and a person of interest must make a "clear, unequivocal" request for an attorney.
In Chadwell's case, the word "rather" was used to show some skepticism as to whether or not an attorney was truly needed, Mote said.
"That's not an unequivocal assertion," he argued.
Magrath said just because Chadwell continued talking, it didn't diminish his request for a lawyer.
Circuit Court Judge Darrell Auxier agreed with the defense, saying that anything Chadwell said after the request for an attorney cannot be entered into evidence in the case.
"The defendant's reply was clear enough for a reasonable police officer to understand the statement as a request for an attorney," Auxier wrote in his ruling.
Mote said Thursday that the ruling was a "significant blow" to the strength of the prosecution's case. Mote said the prosecutor's office will analyze the facts of the case to determine whether or not to continue.