Why Judge Tossed Out Teen’s Confession In Death Of Mother
(Memphis) Within hours of a Hickory Hill house fire that killed Gwendolyn Wallace, police questioned her 14-year-old son Jonathan Ray.
That interview raised plenty of legal questions.
The teen was never read his Miranda rights, only handed a copy with a lieutenant telling him, “It doesn’t mean anything, but you gotta know your rights and all that stuff OK? Once you look it over you can sign right there.”
Special Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael said in a written order, “Ray did not voluntarily or knowingly waive his privilege against self-incrimination. He was left to discern the written Miranda without any explanation and no one explored whether he had the ability to comprehend.”
Investigators told Ray his step-father had given permission for them to talk with him, but the stepfather was not in the room with Ray as he was questioned.
Officers told him to go ahead and sign the Miranda.
The judge wrote, “What 14-year-old in custody of 2 deputies in a small interrogation room would not do what he was told to do?”
During the interview, Ray denied setting the fire or being at home during it, but investigators told him they had surveillance video of him leaving the house after the fire.
There was never any video.
Ray confessed after three hours of questioning, saying he set the first because his mother would not let him see his girlfriend.
The judge ruled because the consequences of waiving his rights weren’t made clear, Ray’s statement was unconstitutionally obtained.
That means it won’t be admissible in court.
The next step for Jonathan Ray is a court hearing June 12, 2013 to decide if he will be tried as an adult.