Thursday, February 2, 2006
Defendant Whose Confession Was Thrown Out by Ninth Circuit Gains Mistrial After Jury Deadlocks
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A mistrial has been declared in the case of a Long Beach man attempting to gain freedom after serving more than 12 years of a life sentence for a 1993 Memorial Day murder.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Kim discharged jurors Tuesday after they reported being deadlocked 9-3 in favor of convicting Leif Taylor of the murder of William Shadden, but 11-1 against finding that the murder occurred in the course of a robbery or attempted robbery, the special circumstance that previously resulted in Taylor being sentence to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
Jurors told Kim that further deliberations would be fruitless, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported. The jury deliberated nearly six days, although two jurors were discharged on Friday and an alternate chosen to replace one of them was released Monday.
Defense attorney Matt Fletcher told the newspaper that the prosecution’s case is hopeless, as the testimony of its witnesses was questionable. He also said he would seek a change of venue and move to disqualify prosecutors.
Taylor’s original conviction and sentence were thrown after the Ninth Circuit ruled that Long Beach police detectives extracted an involuntary confession from the defendant, who was 16 years old at the time.
Judge Alex Kozinski, writing for the Ninth Circuit, said the state court rulings allowing the confession into evidence constituted an unreasonable application of U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
Shadden was shot and killed while apparently chasing two men who had attempted to steal his bicycle. Taylor’s supposed accomplice was convicted in a separate trial in 1994 and remains imprisoned.
Taylor became a suspect, and about three months after the shooting, detectives armed with search and arrest warrants came to the apartment where Taylor lived with his mother—who was apparently not home at the time—and arrested him at about 11:30 p.m.
He was then subjected to a three-hour interrogation at the police station, ending with an 11-minute audiotape confession.
Before trial, he moved to suppress the confession as having been obtained involuntarily and in violation of his right to counsel. He claimed he had asked to speak to a lawyer, and had specifically told the detectives the name of a lawyer whose phone number he knew and whom he wished to call, but the detectives continued to question him and also refused his request to contact his mother.
He finally confessed, he said, because he was “getting tired” and wanted to get out of the interrogation and make a phone call, thinking that since he “didn’t do it anyways,” he could get the matter cleared up. He acknowledged signing a Miranda waiver, but said he did so well into the interrogation and only signed it because he was told to.
One of the two detectives testified, responding to most of the defendant’s testimony either by disputing Taylor’s version or saying he could not recollect the details. He said he didn’t recall Taylor asking to speak to a lawyer, said he did not ask for his mother before questioning began, and said he could not recall Taylor asking for his mother during questioning.
Also testifying was Long Beach attorney Arthur Close, who has since died.. Close said he had received an early morning phone call at home from Taylor, who told him that he had just confessed to murder after police had questioned him for hours and refused to let him contact his mother or Close.
Close also testified that Taylor related to him details of the interrogation. Close said that Taylor was obviously upset and provided the details to him without prompting.
Kozinski said the confession should never have been admitted.
The attorney’s testimony, Kozinski said, strongly corroborated Taylor’s. And given that one of the two detectives never testified, and that the one who did testified ambiguously or claimed a lack of recollection as to key points, the confession should have been found to have been coerced and/or obtained in violation of the right to counsel or the right to silence, the judge concluded.
Kozinski pointed out in a footnote that under California Supreme Court precedent, a juvenile’s request to contact a parent is deemed an invocation of the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company