Defense attorneys for Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, are attempting to have key parts of what police are calling “his confession” tossed out of court. The defense is arguing that parts of Cruz’s confession will cause “significant trauma” to an already traumatized community. In addition, attorneys are arguing that it may prejudice potential jurors against Cruz when it comes time for his trial. They are further saying that it Cruz is protected by the Fifth Amendment and self-incrimination.
Cruz’s lawyers are offering the prosecution life in prison in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table. The prosecution, however, is under no requirement to accept that offer. Typically, in high-profile cases like these, with traumatized survivors and families mourning their children, the prosecution can elect to try a defendant to get the maximum possible penalty. In this case, that would be the death penalty.
Blocking Press Releases vs. Getting Confessions Tossed
The defense wants to block key portions of a statement Cruz made to police because they believe that it will taint any possible jury pool. Reading between the lines, Cruz’s statements are likely to show him as remorseless and even more so, show him as feeling justified for committing the crimes. If released to the press before the sequester of a jury it could have a profound impact on how potential jurors see Cruz as a defendant.
In cases such as these, judges will often side with the defense. The judge is tasked with ensuring that the defendant gets a fair trial under the law. That doesn’t, however, mean that his confession will be tossed. It can still be entered into evidence either in part or in whole, but not before the trial and not before the judge has a chance to make a determination as to whether or not the information contained therein is more prejudicial than probative.
That begs the question: How exactly would a defense attorney go about getting a confession tossed?
How a Defense Attorney Can Get a Confession Tossed
In general, there are three ways a defense attorney can get a confession tossed.
- Unlawful questioning
- Privileged statements
- Coerced confessions
#1. Unlawful Questioning
Before the police can question you in relation to a crime, you must be read your Miranda Rights. If the police don’t read your Miranda Rights and elicit a confession, then the confession can be thrown out.
#2. Privileged Statements
Certain communications are privileged and cannot be used against you in a court of law. Comments made to a doctor, psychologist, priest, or spouse are considered privileged under U.S. law. The prosecution may be under certain restrictions when using this as evidence against you at trial.
#3. Involuntary or Coerced Confessions
Confessions, by definition, are considered to be statements outside of court by the free will of the defendant. If they turn out to be coerced or obtained through trickery, they can be thrown out.
Confessions can be a very damning piece of evidence against you in a case. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Nonetheless, the confession must be elicited in accord with the law. A skilled defense attorney can have an unlawful confession thrown out, or have a judge direct the jurors to weight it less heavily than the evidence provided in court.
The Skier Law Firm, P.A in West Palm Beach helps those accused of crimes get the best defense available. Give us a call at (561) 820-1508 or contact us online, and we can begin discussing your case immediately.