A 29-year-old transient testified today that he was intimidated and coerced into giving a murder confession to two police officers who interviewed him about the beating death of a Lawrence man.
During a hearing this morning on whether to suppress the confession from his trial, Kenneth Lee Morris said that he asked to stop an interview in Phoenix, Ariz., with Lawrence police officers at least four times, but the officers continued to question him.
"I told him, `I am done talking to you,'" Morris said of Lawrence Police Sgt. Carrol Crossfield, who interviewed Morris on Aug. 17 along with Lawrence police Det. Craig Shanks.
Morris is charged with murder in connection with the Aug. 8 beating of Danny Davis, 40, who died five days later.
Morris was in the custody of Phoenix police on unrelated burglary charges when Lawrence police officers interviewed him.
MORRIS testified that after the first time he told police he was finished talking to them, "He (Crossfield) got real mad. . . . He said that if I didn't cooperate with them he'll make sure that I go to jail for first-degree murder and that, `You're lucky they don't kill people in Kansas for that anymore.'"
Morris said he believed the officers were going to beat him.
Crossfield and Shanks testified last week that they did not threaten or use coercion during the interview.
Morris' attorney, James Rumsey, is seeking to have Morris' murder confession suppressed from Morris' jury trial, claiming his client's rights were violated because a lawyer was not present during the interview.
The hearing will resume at 11 a.m. Thursday.
MORRIS testified today that police indicated to him during the interview they would ask the prosecuting attorney to charge Morris with a lesser charge than first-degree murder if he cooperated with them.
Morris also said police told him he "better start cooperating or they would make sure" his common-law wife, Rose Rinke, would be imprisoned in connection with the murder.
Shanks and Crossfield testified that they did not promise Morris anything in regard to possible charges, and that they did not make threats to Morris about Rinke.
Morris also testifed that after Crossfield read Morris his Miranda rights, Morris said he understood the rights, and when asked if he would talk about Danny Davis, Morris said, "I suppose so."
A day before the interview with Lawrence police, an attorney with the public defender's office in Phoenix had been appointed to represent Morris on the burglary charges.
MORRIS SAID he told Crossfield and Shanks at the beginning of the interview that he had not had a chance to see his lawyer.
"They said, `We're not here to talk to you about the burglary charges, we're here to talk to you about Danny Davis.'"
Under cross-examination by Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells, Morris said that he had initially given a false name to Phoenix police officers when he was arrested.
Wells also pointed out that Morris had written two letters; one to Rinke during the Phoenix interview, in which he wrote, ". . . they want to interview you, but said you won't have to go to jail if you tell the truth. I believe them."
The second letter written after Morris was booked into the Douglas County Jail, Wells said, was a request to talk with Crossfield and Shanks.
The letter, referring to Crossfield and Shanks, says, "You guys seem pretty decent to me," Wells said.
However, Morris said he wrote the letter because he thought the officers were going back on their "promises" to have lesser charges filed against him.