Law-enforcement officers used deception and pressure tactics to elicit a confession from the teenage suspect in a Davis double murder, according to a court document seeking to have those statements excluded from the defendant’s upcoming trial.
In a 32-page motion filed Thursday, lawyers for 16-year-old Daniel William Marsh say their client was taken to the Davis police station under false pretenses, then questioned for hours about the April 14 stabbing deaths of Oliver “Chip” Northup and Claudia Maupin despite investigators’ knowledge of Marsh’s psychological troubles and his repeated requests to be taken home.
“Throughout his interrogation, the minor’s denials were consistently, persistently refuted, signaling to him that the only manner in which to terminate the interview was to confess. … It was only after four hours of being in police custody that Mr. Marsh made incriminating statements,” deputy public defenders Ron Johnson and Andrea Pelochino argue in their motion.
The attorneys say the alleged confession was involuntary and thus inadmissible in court.
A hearing on the suppression motion is scheduled for Feb. 28 and will remain open to the public, Yolo Superior Court Judge David Reed ruled Thursday. Marsh’s attorneys had sought to have the hearing closed, its transcript sealed and a gag order imposed on the parties in the case.
However, Reed agreed to view the video of Marsh’s five-hour interview in private before deciding whether that recording should be sealed.
According to the defense motion, officers from the Davis Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified Marsh as a suspect in the murders on June 15. Two days later, Davis police Officer Eddie Ellsworth located Marsh at a friend’s home and asked him to go to the police station to fill out diversion program paperwork for an incident that had occurred at school earlier in the year.
“Officer Ellsworth never mentioned that the police and/or the FBI were interested in interrogating Mr. Marsh as a suspect in a double homicide,” the motion says.
While speaking with a youth intervention specialist, Marsh disclosed he was taking medications for clinical depression and severe anxiety, and that he frequently smoked marijuana to “calm down the voices,” Marsh’s attorneys wrote. From there, he was taken into an interview room and introduced to Detective Ariel Pineda.
“Basically, you are at the Police Department and, uh, I have to read this stuff to you,” Pineda told Marsh before reading him his rights, according to the motion, which describes the Miranda warning as “excessively casual” for someone young and unfamiliar with law enforcement. No attorney was present.
The defense lawyers also label the police interview as “psychologically coercive,” lasting nearly five hours and eventually involving an FBI agent, Chris Campion, who described himself as a “healer” and implied that admission to the murders would earn Marsh leniency in the courts, the motion says.
“Agent Campion continued the interrogation after Mr. Marsh’s persistent denials and told him that he wanted to hear Mr. Marsh confess so he could heal him,” according to the motion. “The agent then suggested that a confession could mean prosecution in juvenile, as opposed to adult, court.”
Marsh, charged with two counts of murder with special circumstances, is being tried as an adult — a charging decision that Yolo County prosecutors say was mandated by law in light of Marsh’s age and the nature of his alleged crime.
“These promises of help, healing and psychiatric treatment would be inappropriate in any context, but when combined with Mr. Marsh’s mental infirmities are clearly improper promises of leniency,” the motion says.
Nearly three hours into the interview, a tired and hungry Marsh made the first of four requests to go home and began to ask whether he was under arrest, but the officers continued to question him, defense attorneys say. When he asked to be taken to a psychiatric hospital, Campion replied that “the first step to treatment in a hospital was by confessing.”
“After approximately 191 minutes of direct interrogation and 240 minutes since initially being picked up by Officer Ellsworth, Mr. Marsh relented and told the agent he wanted help and proceeded to make incriminating statements,” the motion says.
Pineda testified at Marsh’s Sept. 13 preliminary hearing that Marsh admitted to harboring urges to kill since the age of 10, and that he gave into those urges that April night by slipping through an open window of the victims’ Cowell Boulevard condominium and fatally stabbing Maupin, 76, then Northup, 87.
Coroner’s officials say the couple were stabbed more than 60 times each, their bodies mutilated when police officers conducting a welfare check discovered them in their bedroom. Pineda said police found bloodied clothing in the garage of Marsh’s mother’s home.
The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office has until Feb. 20 to file its opposition to the defense suppression motion.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene