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Judge Throws Out Couey Confession in Jessica Lunsford Murder

This is sick:

The confession of a man charged with kidnapping, raping and killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford isn't admissible in court, but the discovery of her body can be used as evidence, a judge ruled Friday.


John Evander Couey, a 47-year-old convicted sex offender, gave the confession to detectives, but also told them that he wanted to consult a lawyer. He wasn't given the opportunity to do so.

"This is a material and a profound violation of one of the most bedrock principles of criminal law," Circuit Judge Ric Howard said in issuing the ruling Friday.

Jessica was found kneeling and clutching a stuffed animal, hands tied with speaker wire and fingers poking through the garbage bags in which she was buried alive in February 2005. Two days earlier, Couey told detectives he had kidnapped, raped and killed the girl, and he told them where to find the body.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Couey, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of premeditated murder, burglary, kidnapping and sexual battery. Jury selection for his trial is expected to start July 10.

Couey and Jessica both lived in the Homosassa area. After Jessica disappeared, Couey fled the area as the search for the missing girl zeroed in on registered sex offenders in the area.

He was arrested in Georgia on an unrelated Florida warrant, and gave the confession in an Augusta, Ga., sheriff's office to two detectives who traveled from Florida to interview him.

Thank goodness there appears to be enough independent evidence to convict this scum. This man needs to fry for his brutal killing of this little girl.


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Comments (23)

I find it interesting that ... (Below threshold)

I find it interesting that the guy was in court two or three days before kidnapping the girl, for a contempt of court hearing. He was failing to pay a court-ordered fine for some prior drug conviction. The judge wouldn't hold him because "the US does not have debtor prisons".

...yes we do. Don't pay child support and you go to jail. For "contempt of court".

Lemme guess: The judge was... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Lemme guess: The judge was an aclu backed liberal.

Oh stop it. I am no "ACLU-... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Oh stop it. I am no "ACLU-backed liberal" but sometimes the judge has to rule according to the law, whether we like it or not. Did you want to the judge in this case to ignore the law and rule in a manner that we all would have liked him to?? Would we call that an "activist judge"? Cmon - maybe it's the cops fault for not doing their job correctly.

But I agree - there's enough evidence to convict the bastard, and if I had my wish he would be fed to sharks, or some other such brutal death.

That is one thing that I ha... (Below threshold)

That is one thing that I hate about our judicial system. Two wrongs don't make a right. Punish the people who failed to give him access to a lawyer, but don't erase his confession simply because of a mistake.

He confessed. As long as it can be shown that the confession wasn't coerced and is a valid statement, who cares?

Then again, if you shoot someone in the back of the head and through some miracle they live, you can't be charged with murder. So I guess this is par for the course.

Don't blame the judge on th... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Don't blame the judge on this one....

"John Evander Couey, a 47-year-old convicted sex offender, gave the confession to detectives, but also told them that he wanted to consult a lawyer. He wasn't given the opportunity to do so."

Stupid freaking cops almost blew the whole case.

Don't blame the judge for being stuck in the position the cops put him in.

For nearly 100 years we hav... (Below threshold)
yetanotherjohn:

For nearly 100 years we have had a judicial system that devalues truth and justice. The facts do not change when evidence is excluded, just the facts the jury gets to hear about. Now in the case of a comfession, evidence exclusion is arguably a reasonable solution because of the danger of a coerced confession.

And Kim, remember, he is innocent until proven guilty. As part of wanting that for the marines, we need to be ready to grant it to the lowest of the low.

"After Jessica disappeared,... (Below threshold)
Not Tony:

"After Jessica disappeared, Couey fled the area as the search for the missing girl zeroed in on registered sex offenders in the area..."

And it worked.

Lock up all registered sex offenders for life.

Paul, the cops that f*cked ... (Below threshold)

Paul, the cops that f*cked up should be punished. But their f*ckup doesn't negate the confession (as long as it can be proven that it wasn't coerced).

Just because a cop had to speed to catch me speeding doesn't negate the fact I was over the limit.

I realize we require protection from unlawful crap, but I find it hard to believe that if a cop broke down a door without a warrant and found some dude filming child snuff porn films that, because of the failure to get a warrant he'd be set free. The cop should be arrested for breaking in, but it doesn't negate the fact there was something else illegal going on.

The cops may not have screw... (Below threshold)

The cops may not have screwed up at all.

If the lawyer advised him to shut up (and what are the chances of that not happening) they may have never found the little girl.

"The cops may not have scre... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"The cops may not have screwed up at all.

If the lawyer advised him to shut up (and what are the chances of that not happening) they may have never found the little girl."

Well, if 'found the little girl' meant they found her alive, or even better, alive and unhurt; then maybe they didn't screw up.

But in this case 'found the little girl' meant 'found her dead, raped body'. Lotta good that does.

The cops screwed up. Maybe they had no good choices, but they screwed up.

There is still forensic evi... (Below threshold)
scsiwuzzy:

There is still forensic evidence to be dealt with. They may not be able to use his confession to tie him to the victim, but other evidence might.
As someone else pointed out, if he lawyered up, the police might still be looking for the body, or found it much later, and the forensic evidence would have had opportunity to degrade.

" ..if he lawyered up, the ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

" ..if he lawyered up, the police might still be looking for the body, or found it much later, and the forensic evidence would have had opportunity to degrade. "

Very true. But is this how we want our police to operate? What is the appropriate punishment for the police when they pull this crap and it leads to the body? What is the punishment when they pull this crap and it does NOT lead to the body?

If the police see they can get away with this with no punishment, what other laws will they break in order to 'help the case'?

I'm no ACLU'er (shudder), but the cops screwed up. It was a bad situation and maybe there were no right choices for them, but they screwed up.

Paul, the cops that f*ck... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Paul, the cops that f*cked up should be punished. But their f*ckup doesn't negate the confession (as long as it can be proven that it wasn't coerced).

---------

Sure it does... A confession without benifit of council? WHEN HE ASKED FOR IT? Forget law school, have you never watched Perry Mason?

No court in the land is going to rule that is admissable.

and -the horrible nature of... (Below threshold)
Paul:

and -the horrible nature of the crime not withstanding- they shouldn't.

Circuit Judge Ric Howard ha... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Circuit Judge Ric Howard has a reputation.

www.sptimes.com/2005/05/14/news_pf/Citrus/Too_harsh_or_too_soft.shtml INVERNESS - Circuit Judge Ric Howard has weathered his share of criticism.

His decision to sentence a teenager to prison for stealing a six-pack of beer and slipping away from a patrol car outraged community mental health advocates.

An appellate judge called another Howard sentence - 10 years in prison for a young man convicted of stealing a gun and a safe - "unduly harsh."

On Friday, an appeals court chastised Howard again. This time, though, the criticism came for being too nice.

The court said Howard's decision to dismiss two cases against an Inverness man showed "good intentions" but was "an abuse of discretion."

There was already a petition to Florida Gov Bush to review Howard's decisions:

www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/951521911?ltl=1129689163

PETITION TO GOVERNOR JEB BUSH AND FLORIDA COURT OF APPEALS REGARDING SENTENCING BY CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE RIC HOWARD. We the undersigned, do hereby petition Governor Bush, the Florida Appeals Court and the citizens of Florida to immediately and without delay open a joint discussion on the sentencing of William Thornton IV by Circuit Judge Ric Howard.

But then, what elese would you expect from a right-wing judge:

guerillawomentn.blogspot.com/2005/12/judge-sic-ric-howard-destroys-young.html

There's an out of control rightwing judge in Florida who is inflicted with the compassionate conservativism disease. Judge Sic Ric Howard needs to be stopped before he destroys any more young lives.

Adam Bollenback, a teen who is bipolar and has an ADHD, is serving a ten year sentence for stealing a six pack of beer!

How many of you outraged citizens are going to sign the petition, knowing that Howard is a right-winger like many of you here?

Do you morals stop where your politics start?

If he lawyered up and they ... (Below threshold)

If he lawyered up and they never found the body because they (perhaps) didn't have enough evidence to try him without it so they could offer a reduction for his act of good will (would a lawyer let him do it if they didn't already have a air tight case)...

If I was the mother?

I think that (in the absence of all the details) putting the priority on finding the girl, dead or alive, is the right one. Trials are never a sure thing.

I'd want my baby back.

Lee, you're foaming at the ... (Below threshold)

Lee, you're foaming at the mouth.

Supposing that the judge suffers comparable lunacy, what does it have to do with anyone's opinions about this case? And, quite frankly, there seems to be a wide variety of opinions expressed and you didn't express yours so there's no way to even tell which opinion you find so terrible.

Lee's opinion?conser... (Below threshold)
scsiwuzzy:

Lee's opinion?
conservative == bad

oh, andmodel airplan... (Below threshold)
scsiwuzzy:

oh, and
model airplane glue + paperbag == Friday night

Lemme guess: The jud... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Lemme guess: The judge was an aclu backed liberal.

Posted by: moseby at June 30, 2006 10:18 AM

no, moseby, this guy is a right-wing as they come, and he's already made enemies of a lot of concerned Floridians who are fed up with conservative right-wing judges.

Synova is right. The cops w... (Below threshold)
wave_man:

Synova is right. The cops were trying to get information as quickly as possible in the hope that the girl could be found alive.

And scsiwuzzy, your last comment hit the nail on the head.

Robb Allen posted, "He conf... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:

Robb Allen posted, "He confessed. As long as it can be shown that the confession wasn't coerced and is a valid statement, who cares?"

There's a reason that there's a rule that when somebody in police custody requests a lawyer, questioning is to stop and a lawyer is provided: it's one of the ways we protect against coerced confessions. Also, if the courts just let it pass when the cops ignored the rules, there would be a lot more cops ignoring the rules.

When you are in the syst... (Below threshold)
AuntieCares:

When you are in the system as much as Couey was then you know your "rights" You have the right to remain silent. All he had to do was shut up. Doesnt it say that if you talk, everything can and will be used against you?





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