Dalzell case in Jeopardy

Not much to say here other than that I knew the skinny on this months ago (the letter that led to the confession. etc…), however, the part about no Miranda I question… police informed it was done “by the book”.

Lawyer: Police used false warrant, letter



Dec 13, 2004 : 11:03 pm ET

HILLSBOROUGH — Carrboro police used a fake arrest warrant and a fake letter from the district attorney vowing to seek the death penalty to try to trick a suspect into confessing to a woman’s 1997 disappearance, according to documents submitted in court Monday.

As a result, the state’s murder case against Andrew Douglas Dalzell, charged with killing 35-year-old Deborah Leigh Key, may now be in jeopardy. Defense attorneys are asking that statements Dalzell made to Carrboro police following his arrest be thrown out. A judge is scheduled to hear the defense’s motion Wednesday.

The defense attorneys argue in their motion that officers used the fake documents to trick Dalzell into believing he was being arrested for Key’s murder and would face the death penalty unless he immediately cooperated. In fact, he was being arrested for stealing some fantasy figurines, a credit card number and other merchandise from his former employer, court documents indicate.

The motion also claims police officers questioned Dalzell without informing him of his Miranda rights. Dalzell, 28, was charged with second-degree murder on Sept. 9 in connection with Key’s disappearance. Her body has not been recovered.

Although Carrboro police have not revealed all the evidence against Dalzell, sources familiar with the case have said there may not be enough to try him on the murder charge if a judge throws out the statements he made to police.

Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison declined to comment Monday. District Attorney Carl Fox also declined to comment, other than to say he didn’t write the letter and that the signature on it wasn’t his.

Key was last seen with Dalzell in Carrboro on the morning of Dec. 1, 1997. Witnesses said the two met in a downtown bar and were last seen together in a nearby parking lot after the bar closed. Key, who lived with her mother, never returned home.

Although Dalzell was immediately a suspect, police could not find enough evidence linking him to Key’s disappearance until he asked Carrboro police to provide security at his apartment in September as he packed up to move.

At the apartment, an investigator saw fantasy figurines, jars of paint, model airplanes and other items that Dalzell said he had gotten while employed at Hungate’s Arts, Crafts & Hobbies at University Mall.

A few days later, the investigator checked with the manager at Hungate’s and learned Dalzell was suspected of stealing the items. Warrants were drawn up in Chapel Hill charging Dalzell with theft and with the alleged theft of a customer’s credit card number, which he is accused of using to obtain services from a Russian mail-order bride Internet site.

Carrboro police investigators then drove to Stanley, more than 140 miles from Orange County, where Dalzell had moved in with his girlfriend’s family, and arrested him on charges of obtaining property by false pretense, financial identity fraud and possession of stolen property.

Orange-Chatham Public Defender James Williams claims that’s when the trickery began, according to an affidavit filed in support of the motion to suppress evidence.

Five Carrboro officers, joined by five Lincoln County Sheriff’s investigators and two uniformed deputies, went to the house in Stanley and arrested Dalzell at gunpoint. He then was handcuffed and placed in the rear seat of a Carrboro police car, the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, Carrboro Lt. John Lau then placed the alleged warrant for Dalzell’s arrest on first-degree murder charges next to him on the seat.

The warrant appeared to be genuine, with Chief District Court Judge Joseph Buckner’s name typed in the space where the person issuing the warrant normally signs.

Buckner told The Herald-Sun on Monday that he did not sign the warrant.

In addition, Dalzell was not promptly told that he was being arrested on charges of obtaining property by false pretense, financial identity fraud and possession of stolen property, a violation of North Carolina law, the affidavit says.

“Instead, the officers intentionally and purposely misled Andrew to believe that he had been arrested for first-degree murder,” the affidavit states.

Dalzell was left alone in the car with the fake warrant for about 20 minutes, before Lau got in the back seat and they headed back to Carrboro, normally about a three-hour drive.

“Without reading his Miranda rights, Lt. Lau began interrogating Andrew within minutes of departing Lincoln County,” the affidavit states. “Lt. Lau then gave Andrew a letter, typed on District Attorney letterhead, which purports to be a letter from Carl Fox to Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison,” the affidavit states.

The letter states:

“Chief Hutchison: I spoke with Barbara Key this morning, and I assured her that her daughter Deborah Key’s murder was considered a capitol [sic] crime, and that I would, without a doubt, seek the death penalty. Knowing the facts as I do, I firmly believe that Andrew Dalzell will be put to death for his heinous crime. I have also promised the Key family that there would ABSOLUTELY BE NO PLEA ARRANGEMENTS OR ANY KIND OF DEAL MADE WITH HIS LAWYERS.

“The only exception to this would be that “IMMEDIATELY UPON HIS ARREST, Mr. Dalzell takes the police to Deborah Key’s remains. … If, when Mr. Dalzell is arrested, he professes the desire to continue to live, and he takes the police to Ms. Key’s remains, please notify me. I would like to be present when this happens.

“If you choose to let Mr. Dalzell read this letter so that he might realize the seriousness of his situation, feel free to do so.”

The letter then ends with Fox congratulating the officers for their work and what purports to be the district attorney’s signature.

According to the affidavit, another Carrboro officer interrogated Dalzell during the return trip to Carrboro and later in an interrogation room at the Police Department. That officer also allegedly showed Dalzell the letter purported to be from Fox.

“Even though Andrew was sobbing, emotionally distraught and visibly upset, Corporal Everett continued to question him without advising him of his Miranda rights until Andrew eventually made an oral statement. Corporal Everett then asked Lt. Lau to come into the room. Only then was Andrew advised of his Miranda rights,” the affidavit states.

Dalzell signed a waiver of his rights to remain silent and have an attorney present, but it was not voluntary, the affidavit says, “because it was obtained by the threat of death if he did not confess and the promise or inducement of life and leniency if he did.”

“The waiver was not knowing and intelligent, because it was obtained through the officer’s unconscionable deceit in using fraudulent court documents to cause Andrew to believe he had been arrested for first-degree murder when in fact no such warrant had been issued,” the affidavit states.

In his motion to suppress Dalzell’s statements, Williams said they were involuntary because the officers interrogated Dalzell while in custody and before advising him of his Miranda rights.

In addition, it says Dalzell’s statements were obtained through substantial violation of North Carolina law, which requires a law enforcement officer making an arrest to “as promptly as is reasonable under the circumstances, inform the arrested person of the cause of the arrest, unless the cause appears to be evident.”

According to the motion, the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the N.C. Constitution require the exclusion of Dalzell’s statements in order to preserve his right to due process of law and to protect his rights against involuntary self-incrimination.


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