A Lawrence police sergeant testified today that a 29-year-old transient charged with murder understood and waived his right to an attorney before confessing to the crime during a police interview.
Police Sgt. Carrol Crossfield testified that the defendant, Kenneth Lee Morris, understood his Miranda rights when they were read to him during an Aug. 17 interview in Phoenix, Ariz. Crossfield and Craig Shanks, a Lawrence police detective, interviewed Morris about the beating death of a Lawrence man.
"He indicated he wanted to" waive his right to attorney, Crossfield testified during a hearing this morning in Douglas County District Court. "I don't remember the exact words he used. He said something to the effect of `yeah.'"
IN THE motion being argued at today's hearing, Morris' attorney, James Rumsey, Lawrence, is asking the court to rule the confession inadmissible as evidence.
Morris is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the Aug. 8 beating death of Danny Davis, 40. He is accused of striking Davis several times with a golf club in Davis' Lawrence residence. Davis died five days later from head injuries.
Today's hearing was being conducted to determine whether Morris' rights were violated when police questioned him in Phoenix without an attorney present.
Crossfield and Shanks interviewed Morris in Phoenix, where he was being held on burglary charges unrelated to the murder.
AT TODAY'S hearing, Phoenix police officer Michael G. Smith testified that he had read Morris his rights after Morris was arrested in connection with the burglary and taken to a police command center.
Smith said that other than asking Morris his name, Phoenix police did not interview him. And they did not question Morris about the Davis murder, Smith said.
Asked whether he believed Morris wanted to waive his rights in connection with questions about the burglary, Smith said, "Mr. Morris stated, `I'm not sure what I want to do.' He never said yes or no."
At that point, Smith said, he didn't questioned Morris further.
Smith said Morris never indicated that he wanted to see a lawyer while in the custody of Phoenix police.
Crossfield also testified that Morris never indicated he wanted to see an attorney at the time of the Lawrence police interview or after.
"HE WAS calm, he was friendly, he was a gentleman," Crossfield said, adding that police did not coerce Morris into answering questions.
Shanks was expected to testify this afternoon at the hearing.
Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells said he did not know whether other witnesses would be called at the hearing.
Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone will decide whether to grant Rumsey's motion to withhold testimony about Morris' interview as evidence in the murder trial.