Kansas City, Mo. A former Navy seaman's videotaped confessions to the killing of an officer 33 years ago should be suppressed because it was not voluntary, a judge has said.
Michael LeBrun, a former Navy seaman, faces federal murder charges in the 1968 death of Lt. Andrew Muns while their ship, the USS Cacapon, was anchored in the Philippines. Muns' body was never recovered and the Navy listed him as a deserter after investigators found more than $8,000 missing from a ship safe.
Agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service reopened the case in 1998 at the urging of Muns' sister.
After viewing the confessions, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah W. Hays on Friday advised District Judge Dean Whipple not to allow jurors to view the tape.
In her report, Hays said the confession was not voluntary and had been prompted by the investigators' emotional pressure tactics and broad promises not to prosecute.
LeBrun's lawyer, Glenn E. Bradford, said his client was happy with the ruling.
Whipple, who will preside over the trial, must still rule on Hays' recommendation. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said prosecutors planned to ask Whipple to reverse the magistrate.
Investigators testified last spring that LeBrun's confessions were crucial to the case against him. Special agents Jim Grebas and David Early of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said that before LeBrun's confession in September, they did not have enough evidence to charge him.
In his own testimony in April, LeBrun admitted that he had confessed to killing Muns, but only after receiving assurances that he would not be prosecuted.
"They made a promise to me that I would not be prosecuted for first-degree murder, manslaughter or jaywalking," he said.