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Judge rules homicide suspect's statement to Little Rock detectives is admissable in court

She clears detectives, calls playing suspect’s account to slaying ‘common sense’ by John Lynch | November 17, 2021 at 3:49 a.m.
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A Little Rock capital-murder suspect's detailed description of how he came to fatally shoot a man, recorded within hours of the killing, can be used at his trial next month, a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled Monday.

The two-page decision by Judge Cathi Compton, which she described as "common sense," also clears the Little Rock detectives who questioned Derrick Dewayne Green of accusations that they violated his constitutional rights.

"The defendant's confession was not coerced but voluntary and admissible," Compton wrote.

Prosecutors Barbara Mariani and Rafael Gallaher are seeking a life sentence for Green. Represented by defense attorney Bill James, the 29-year-old defendant testified at last week's suppression hearing that detectives Rick Harmon and Terry McDaniel badgered him into talking after he specifically invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

The statement resulting from that questioning was played for the judge at the hearing. In the recording, Green told investigators how victim Cameron Pearson, 20, had punched him the day of the August 2019 slaying in a dispute over a cellphone. Green also recounted how he went and got his AR-15 rifle, picked up ammunition for the gun, and then went and shot Pearson, although Green said he did not mean to kill the younger man. Green even described where he parked his car and the path he walked to find Pearson and shoot him in front of a South Pulaski Street residence.

It was the second time the officers had spoken with Green following his arrest, about 12 hours after Pearson was killed. The first interview lasted about four minutes. After the detectives read Green his Miranda rights, Green told them he was invoking his right to remain silent.

Harmon and McDaniel testified last week they did not attempt to question him again, with both telling the judge the second statement was Green's idea.

When Green stopped talking, the officers told the judge, they left him alone in an interrogation room while they consulted with other investigators about the scope of the evidence and what to charge Green with. They said they returned about 90 minutes later to tell Green he was being charged with capital murder and that they were taking him to jail.

Green asked if he could smoke a cigarette first so they took him to a secure garage known as a sally port and McDaniel gave him a cigarette. The detectives acknowledge that they engaged in some awkward small talk with Green but said they did not talk about the homicide. Both said Green finished his smoke then told them he wanted to tell his side of the story so they took him back to interrogation for the second interview.

The officers' account of how they went back to interrogation at this point is testimony that the judge stated she found compelling.

"I am not required to set aside my common sense. Common sense dictates that, had the defendant not told the officers ... that he wanted to tell his side of the story -- something the defendant does not deny -- they would have gone from the sally port to the jail," Compton wrote. "The paperwork was done. The charging decision was made. The three men went back ... to the interview room because the defendant wanted to."

In his testimony, Green said the officers continued to press him even after he told them to stop questioning him. He told the judge the pressure continued when they took him for a smoke, with McDaniel urging him to answer questions.

Green said he never agreed to the second interview, telling the judge that as soon as he finished the cigarette, the detectives took him back to interrogation and started questioning him, which led to him laying out his version of what happened.

The judge noted that McDaniel made some remarks during that second interview that sounded like he had been talking to Green beyond what had been recorded but that she accepted his explanation of the statements as "banter."

McDaniel told the judge he did not remember the context for the remarks but they are common phrases he regularly tells suspects about the incriminating evidence investigators have collected and the importance of telling the truth.

He said those types of statements were interrogation tactics that he could have made in a pre-interview questioning procedure police regularly follow that involves briefly speaking to suspects before recording a formal interview to make sure they are really going to submit to formal questioning.

McDaniel testified that police didn't really need a statement from Green to make their case against him. He said they had plenty of evidence, having found eyewitnesses to the slaying who had conclusively identified Green as the killer. Police also have video and cellphone evidence that places Green in the area when Pearson was killed, he said.


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