Hampson recording stays

Judge: Rights were not violated, interrogation tape not suppressed

The taped interrogation the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office conducted with accused murderer Luther Hampson in January 2012 can be used at trial, the court ruled Wednesday.

Hampson's attorneys filed a motion to have the interrogation suppressed, claiming their client's Miranda rights were violated and that the statements made were involuntary.

In an 18-page ruling, District Judge Douglas Walker denied motion for the trial that is scheduled to begin April 1.

The question of the motion had to do with determining if Hampson was or was not in custody when he made statements to a detective.

In his ruling Walker wrote that the real question on the interrogation was whether Hampson was in custody.

If he had been in custody, the first time Hampson indicated his right to remain silent, the questioning should have been terminated.

"This is of great importance here as the defendant clearly manifested his desire to exercise his rights to remain silent shortly after the Miranda advisement as well as at other times and several times indicated he wanted to leave," Walker wrote in his ruling.

In the ruling, Walker wrote that Hampson said he wanted to leave at least twice but made no move to do so until the very end of the interrogation. It was also determined that the detective did not block Hampson from leaving the interview room when he indicated his desire to leave.

The judge also said while Hampson attempted to use his right to remain silent, he continued to speak with little prompting.

However, Walker added that the defendant voluntarily went to the sheriff's office accompanied by his mother and father-in-law at a time Hampson suggested.

Clearly, the purpose of the interview was to question Hampson about the death of Jonathan Hayes who was found dead in Dolores in January 2012.

Walker wrote that Hampson was probably aware he was the prime suspect when Montezuma County Sheriff's Detective Tyson Cox informed him that the investigation showed he was a part of the killing and certainly knew this toward the end of interrogation when told he was the last person to see the victim alive.

Anther factor Walker took into account was Hampson's prior experience with law enforcement and indicated in the taped recording that he thought he knew the detective.

The facts that Hampson was read his Miranda rights and the confrontational tone of Cox were factors in proving the defendant was in custody.

However, the mere reading of Miranda rights does not establish a person who is in custody, and Walker added that the detective always returned to a more conversational tone during the interrogation.

There are also strong factors to indicate the defendant was not in custody, including coming to the sheriff's office of his own free will, was told he was free to leave, and indicated he understood he was free to leave.

"Based upon the totality of the circumstances, the court comes to the conclusion that a reasonable person in Mr. Hampson's position would not have believed their freedom of action was deprived to a degree associated with a formal arrest," Walker wrote. "As a result, the court finds that the defendant was not in custody at any time during the Jan. 18, 2012 statement."

Walker also ruled against suppressing statements that the defense said were involuntary.

He said the defendant was not in custody and was free to leave and could have remained silent when invoking this right but chose not to do so.

"Each time the defendant said he wished to remain silent or to leave, he, in fact, remained and continued to talk," Walker wrote in his ruling.

Walker also wrote that it appeared the defendant was not intimidated by the sheriff's detective and that he went "toe-to-toe" with him, and leaned toward him a few time rather than recoiling in fear.

"Based on the totality of the circumstances the court finds that the detective's actions did not overbear petitioner's will to resist. As a result, the statement is to found to be voluntary. Defendant's motion No. 19 is therefore denied."

michaelm@cortezjournal.com