Key Gambit

I took the day off today to observe the judge’s ruling today on whether or not to suppress a confession made by accused, Andrew Dalzell in the murder of Deborah Key.

The hearing has adjourned until 2:30 pm, at which time Judge Wade Barber has stated he will make a decision. The morning heard opposing briefs by public defender James Williams and the Orange County D.A. Carl Fox.

Over the course of two hours, Williams seemed to have gotten the better of Fox. The D.A. seemed confused and off his game, at one point referring to the victim as Susan, Deborah’s very much alive older sister.

William’s arguments centered on the notion that the Carrboro police used deceit and trickery to coerce a confession out of Dalzell. At issue are three things; the police’s use of a fake warrant, a fabricated letter written by Carrboro detective John Lau on Carl Fox’ letter head in which Fox appears to state he would seek the death penalty against Dalzell, and the police’s use of interrogation techniques before the accused was issued his Miranda rights.

Perhaps the most powerful statement came at the end of the morning when public defender Williams stated that the fabricated letter was “a gun, enabled by D.A. Fox, loaded by Lau and put to Dalzell’s head” in order to obtain a confession.

Throughout the proceedings Dalzell sat unresponsive, using most of the time to read the briefs prepared by the two attorneys. Occasionally he listened very attentively to Judge Barber’s questions. I don’t know… at times he seemed passive and distant, other times he looked like a man sitting on a mountain of rage.

As one attorney stated to me leaving the court house, “the whole thing is a mess and neither attorney seems happy to be doing the jobs they have been assigned.

Yet, despite what some are considering to be a clear cut case of the accused being denied his basic rights, there may be a chance that some of the confession my not be suppressed. It appears that Dalzell confessed more than three times. First there was the “spontaneous utterance” at a gas station on the way to the police station, then one confession before he was given Miranda. But there apparently was a further confession, written by Dalzell on a computer some time after he had been given Miranda. Fox argued that this statement was not “fruit of a poisoned tree”. In the end, the Judge may rule to have it both ways, ruling that the police overstepped their authority, while still allowing part of Dalzell’s confession to stand.


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