Well done, Hutch
Chief defends use of deceit
By Beth Velliquette : The Herald-Sun
Dec 16, 2004 : 10:59 pm ET
CARRBORO — Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison on Thursday defended the tactics her officers used to obtain a confession from a man accused of a 1997 murder, saying that police are allowed to use deceit to get someone to confess to a crime.
“Courts have established that police offers are allowed to use deception in their jobs,” Hutchison said in her first interview since The Herald-Sun reported the trick police used on Andrew Douglas Dalzell. “It is something that is used as a matter of routine in police work.”
Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison
Hutchison said she believes the fake warrant and fake letter her officers used pricked Dalzell’s conscience, prompting him to confess to killing Deborah Leigh Key.
“In my opinion, his guilty conscience spun out of control, and it worked on him,” Hutchison said. “That guilty conscience caused him to confess what he had done in 1997.”
Carrboro officers arrested Dalzell on Sept. 9 in Stanley, about 150 miles west of Orange County, on relatively minor property-crime charges. But they didn’t tell him the real reason he was under arrest or read him his rights. Instead, during the three-hour drive back to Carrboro the officers made Dalzell think they’d already filed first-degree murder charges against him and that District Attorney Carl Fox was vowing to seek the death penalty unless he immediately cooperated.
Dalzell then told police he strangled Key and took her body to Wilmington and put it in a trash bin, according to two Carrboro officers. Dalzell, 28, and Key, who was then 35, were seen together outside a bar in downtown Carrboro on Dec. 1, 1997. Key has not been seen since.
Officers continued talking to Dalzell — whether they “interrogated” him is a matter of debate — at the Carrboro Police Department before finally telling him he could remain silent and have an attorney present, his so-called Miranda rights. Dalzell then signed a waiver of his rights and wrote out a confession, at one point even using a computer to compose it, according to police.
Later that day, police obtained a real warrant charging Dalzell with second-degree murder.
Dalzell’s attorney, Orange-Chatham Public Defender James Williams, has questioned the ruse and filed a motion to suppress the statements his client made to police.
A judge heard testimony from the officers and Dalzell’s mother during a hearing in Orange County Superior Court on Wednesday. Judge Wade Barber did not make a decision and has continued the hearing until Jan. 10.
Hutchison had previously declined to talk about what her officers did to obtain the confession, but on Thursday she said she was willing to discuss the issue because Barber had already heard their testimony.
Carrboro investigators had been working to find out what happened to Key for seven years, and Dalzell was always the prime suspect, she said.
When they obtained the warrants to arrest him for allegedly stealing items from Hungate’s, a store at University Mall, the officers saw it as an opportunity to try to find out what happened to Key, she said.
“We knew it was a long shot,” she said. “We did arrest him on legitimate charges. We had every right to arrest him. We created the perception that he was being arrested for murder.”
Lt. John Lau testified Wednesday that he came up with the idea of making a fake warrant that said Dalzell was being charged with first-degree murder and a fake letter purportedly from Orange-Chatham District Attorney Carl Fox. The letter said Fox would definitely seek the death penalty against Dalzell unless he immediately told investigators where Key’s body was.
Lau testified that he consulted Fox about his plan, and Hutchison said that she believed that everyone was comfortable with it.
On Thursday, Fox agreed that he had talked to Lau and knew that Lau was going to trick Dalzell into believing he was being charged with murder. Fox, however, said he did not know specifically that Lau planned to make the fake warrant and the fake letter. But Fox has already acknowledged giving the officers a piece of his office stationery for their plan.
Steve Stewart, Carrboro’s town manager, stood behind Carrboro’s Police Department and said Fox was aware of what the officers planned to do.
“Without going into detail, please be assured that our Police Department used methods in this murder investigation that were appropriate and within the bounds of existing law,” Stewart said in a written statement.
“Further, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office was involved through all phases of this investigation,” Stewart said. “I have also discussed this matter with our town attorney, who is also comfortable with the methodology used in this investigation.”
On Wednesday, Cpl. Seth Everett testified that when the officers and Dalzell stopped at a gas station on their trip back from Stanley, Dalzell began crying and said he didn’t want to die.
Everett testified that he encouraged Dalzell to tell the truth. Dalzell then blurted out that he didn’t mean to do it and that he had taken her to Wilmington and put her in a Dumpster.
Hutchison said she’s used deceit herself in police work.
For example, Hutchison said that when she was a young officer, she worked as an undercover drug officer in Orange and Chatham counties.
“In doing that I assumed a different name and different personality, someone other than Carolyn Hutchison,” she said. “The state provided me a driver’s license with a different name on it, a different date of birth, and a false address from out of town.
“It helped me establish my ruse, my identity, as a young student from out of town who lived in this area,” she said. “I wore spiky hair in a rattail, and I looked the part of a young, punky college student.”
Some of the people who sold her drugs were convicted and sent to prison, she said.
“I think there is a parallel between that sort of deception and the deception we used in this particular case,” she said. “The parallel is I created a personality and presented that personality … to convince drug dealers to want to sell me drugs.”
Hutchison said she used fake documents, like the fake driver’s license, and no one ever questioned the use of those techniques in her and other officers’ undercover drug work.
The chief also said her officers were not required to give Dalzell his Miranda rights before they actually did because they did not interrogate Dalzell or ask him questions about Key’s murder until after they read him his rights.
Before that, Dalzell made what authorities call “a spontaneous utterance,” she said.
“A ‘spontaneous utterance’ is not the product of interrogation or interview,” Hutchison said. “It’s something someone offers before they have been questioned, and that’s what happened in this situation.”
The officers weren’t required to give Dalzell his Miranda rights as they rode back to Carrboro, she said. “We had no intention of interrogating him in that vehicle, and we didn’t,” she said.