By Beth David, Editor
A judge has ruled that the evidence Fairhaven police gathered during an interview with Michelle Carter at her high school is admissible in court. Ms. Carter is charged with Involuntary Manslaughter in the suicide death of Conrad Roy III.
Mr. Roy’s body was found in the cab of his pickup truck in the Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven in July of 2014, with a gas-powered water pump in the cab. He died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Ms. Carter is being charged in his death due to a series of texts and phone calls she sent encouraging him and helping him commit suicide. The defense has argued that her actions were protected speech under the First Amendment.
Juvenile court judge Lawrence Moniz found that Ms. Carter was not in custody, was in a neutral setting and was free to leave, and, therefore, did not need to have her Miranda rights read to her when she was interviewed by two Fairhaven police officers in the lobby of her high school in October of 2014.
“Miranda warnings are only necessary when one is subjected to custodial interrogation,” wrote the judge in his 11/8 decision. “The court determines that both settings of her encounter between the detectives and that [of] Ms. Carter were neutral settings.”
Ms. Carter’s case is being heard in juvenile court because she was 17 at the time of Mr. Roy’s death. She is 20 now and is being tried as a “juvenile offender.”
The defense sought to suppress a taped interview and all the evidence gained from Ms. Carter’s cell phone and a computer at her home. Police had a search warrant for the phone and the computer.
“There is no indication on the tape of the interview as recorded of any aggressive or threateing questioning by the police officers of Ms. Carter,” wrote Judge Moniz. “There is no raised tone or overbearing demeanor by the police. They are mindful that Ms. Carter’s father is coming, and they do nothing to prevent or delay her meeting with him, but rather indicate that they ‘don’t want him sitting out there waiting.’ Ms. Carter’s response is similarly calm and neutral, indicative of an exchange of an investigatory nature versus an interrogation.
Ms. Carter claimed that her statements were not made voluntarily, but the judge disagreed.
“It is indicative of the non coercive nature of this questioning that Ms. Carter hands over her cell phone to Detective Gordon after putting in her pass code without even being specifically asked to do so,” wrote the judge. “The Court is satisfied, on the credible evidence presented at this hearing, that Ms. Carter’s statements and actions were voluntary.”
The hearing to suppress was held on Friday, 10/14, in Taunton Juvenile Court (see story in 10/20/16 issue). A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 12/1. No trial date has been set.
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