You may remember Philip Chism (hereinafter, the “defendant”). He is the 15-year-old juvenile who has been charged as an adult with the rape and murder of 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer in 2013.
Today, the Defendant’s case is on the calendar again at Salem Superior Court. The issue of the day is suppression. The court is holding a hearing on the motion as I write today’s blog.
The defense is seeking to suppress alleged inculpatory statements made by the Defendant to law enforcement. The Defendant’s attorney argues that the police coerced him into waiving his Miranda Rights and making detailed statements about the murder.
The grounds apparently include that police never properly read the Defendant the Rights and also continued to question him even after he had invoked his right to remain silent and his mother had asked for a lawyer.
Additionally, the Defendant’s motion contends police pressured the Defendant’s mother into helping them get a confession out of her son while he was handcuffed in a police interrogation room.
According to the Commonwealth, the Defendant followed Ms. Ritzer into the girl’s bathroom after school, raped her and ”repeatedly asphyxiated her before or while assaulting her with a box cutter.”
The prosecution also alleges that the Defendant then put her mutilated body in a recycling bin and dumped it in the woods after taking her cellphone, which he destroyed, and her wallet, which he used a credit card from to buy fast food and attend a movie at the mall later that day. according to prosecutors.
The Defendant has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well as to attempted murder and other charges stemming from an assault on a Department of Youth Services worker while in custody pending trial on the murder case.
Attorney Sam’s Take On The Issue Of Making Statements To Law Enforcement
We have discussed statements made to law enforcement many times and from various vantage points.
For example, I have suggested that in most cases, when confronted by law enforcement, it is best not to attempt outfighting , outrunning or out-talking them. These are generally exercises in which a bad situation becomes worse.
Sometimes even deadly.
There are limits, however. If the officer is taking “pedigree” information, such as name or date of birth, you should answer. I hasten to add that you should not lie about these specifics. The truth will come out and, again, you will have made a bad situation worse.
But that is basically where it ends.
Questions about potential crimes you have committed are way beyond that and, again generally, it is best not to respond except to ask to talk to your attorney first.
Even the best of statements have a way of getting changed around a bit when they have to be committed to a police report.
You have the right to remain silent, as well as to confer with counsel and whatever you say will be used against you in court. If you think that sounds an awful lot like the Miranda Rights, you are correct. In essence that is what they are all about.
Still, after being told these warnings, some folks figure that their golden tongues will convince the police that they are as innocent as a newborn. Maybe they even are innocent.
It is still usually a bad idea to go it alone.
In any event, when a suspect is in custody, the police must advise him or her as to these Rights. It also has to be in a meaningful way. For example, I have had cases where the Rights are read, in English to a suspect who does not really speak English. The suspect did not really understand what the detective was talking about but smiled and simply nodded in agreement to all the questions.
Clearly, that is not good enough.
In the Defendant’s case, there are other issues involved. Not the least of these issues are the Defendant’s age and whether he actually requested a lawyer.
Lets look at what happens at the this hearing…
On my next blog.
In the meantime, have a great, safe and law abiding weekend!
For the full stories upon which this blog is based, please go to: http://www.boston.com/news/education/2015/01/09/lawyer-teen-coerced-into-confessing-teacher-murder/zbb8h0E4Y2YOoUDRZ1LsUP/story.html and http://www.salemnews.com/news/live-blog-motion-to-suppress-hearing-in-chism-murder-case/article_ba99ec72-9823-11e4-9b09-dbba6015eb81.html