The attorney for a 29-year-old transient accused of murder says incomplete police reports and promises made to his client in exchange for a confession point to police coercion.
However, the prosecutor contends the defendent voluntarily continued talking to police and never asked to see a lawyer.
Both sides staked out their positions Thursday in Douglas County District Court during closing arguments on whether to suppress a murder confession by Kenneth Lee Morris. He is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the beating death of Danny Davis, 40, Aug. 8 in a residence where Davis had been staying. Davis died five days later.
Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone will rule Wednesday whether Morris was coerced into confessing to the crime. If Malone rules the confession was coerced, the confession will not be admitted as evidence in Morris' trial, which is set for Feb. 3.
MORRIS confessed to the crime during an interview with two Lawrence police officers on Aug. 17 in Phoenix, Ariz., where he was being held on unrelated burglary charges.
Morris' attorney, James Rumsey, is seeking to have the confession suppressed, saying his client's rights were violated because a lawyer was not present during the interview.
During closing arguments, Rumsey said the two Lawrence police officers who interviewed Morris, Sgt. Carrol Crossfield and Craig Shanks, a detective, omitted several incidents that occurred during the interview from their police reports.
The reports, he said, don't mention that Crossfield and Morris raised their voices at each other. Another omission, he said, was that both officers promised lesser charges would be filed against Morris, or his common-law wife wouldn't go to jail, if he confessed to the murder.
THE POLICE officers testified that no such promises were made.
Rumsey said Morris wanted to stop the interview several times, but the officers did not stop questioning him.
And he said a lawyer had been appointed for Morris on the burglary charges a day before the interview, but that Lawrence police didn't bother to ask the proper officials whether a lawyer had been appointed.
However, Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells said Morris understood his Miranda rights after they were read to him by the officers, but the defendant never asked to see a lawyer during the interview.
"The crux of the hearing is who is credible," Wells said. "We have two versions of what happened."
Wells said it is not reasonable to assume that Morris was coerced, intimidated and fearful of the officers because the defendant said in a letter that they were believable and in another letter that they seemed "pretty decent."