Attorneys sparred over the definition of custody and application of the Miranda rights during a suppression hearing for 26-year-old murder suspect Luther Hampson on Wednesday.
The defense is trying to suppress a taped interrogation with Hampson, arguing a Montezuma County Sherriff's Office detective violated the accused's constitutional rights by continuing the interview after Hampson invoked his right to remain silent.
Hampson is accused of murdering fellow Dolores resident Jonathan Hayes, 27, whose body was found by hikers Jan. 14, 2012 near Dolores.
In the more than 75-minute taped interview played for the court, MCSO detective Tyson Cox told Hampson near the beginning of the interview that he was free to leave at any time.
Katie Telfer, one of Hampson's attorneys, questioned whether Hampson was in fact offered an opportunity to leave since Cox was often between the suspect and the door during the interview.
She pointed out that at one point Cox moved his chair within touching distance of her client, making it impossible for him to leave unless he was to "go through" the detective or climb over a desk.
About 20 minutes into the interview, Cox read Hampson his Miranda rights, indicating Hampson's right to remain silent and his right to have an attorney present.
Hampson declined the attorney offer but said he wished to remain silent. Cox pressed him on this issue, testifying that he was not sure what Hampson was requesting and was attempting to clarify what the suspect wanted.
Cox testified that the questions stopped, but Hampson kept talking.
"Tell me what happened to Chub (Hayes), Luther," Cox was heard saying in the taped interview. "If something got out of hand tell me what happened."
Hampson replied that he did not know, but Cox, with his voice rising, said the defendant did know.
"I am telling you it will be better when this is over with," Cox said. "We are talking like men because that is what men do. Quit lying to me. I am not buying that (expletive) story of yours. Tell me the truth, and quit lying to me."
Hampson replied that he was done with the interview, but Cox continued to question him.
"Let it go. Let's talk about it," Cox said.
For effect, Cox slammed his hand on the table during the interview, saying under oath that he did it to get Hampson's attention.
Telfer wanted to know why Cox never asked her client if he was willing to waive his Miranda rights and instead asked if he wanted to move forward with the statement.
Hampson asked the detective what he wanted, and Cox said he wanted a yes or no answer.
Telfer questioned Cox on why he did not ask Hampson if he was waiving his right to remain silent, and the detective said this is how he questions suspects. He added it is not his standard practice to give suspects a written Miranda rights form and instead reads from a department issued card.
Telfer, in her argument to the court on why all or part of the interview should be suppressed, used portions of the tape to bolster her argument.
She said Hampson once said he wanted to go home. He also invoked his right to remain silent and said he was not going to say anything at that time. He said he was done talking and also replied that if the detective did not believe him, then maybe he should get an attorney.
When Hampson stood to leave toward the end of the meeting Cox told him to sit down, saying he would have to be escorted out of the locked sheriff's office since it was past closing time.
Telfer said when her client said he wished to remain silent, the only questions allowed at that point is if the statement was not understood.
"That statement is not unclear. There is nothing unclear about that," she said. She said the defense is asking for the entire interrogation to be suppressed or to suppress anything said after the Miranda warning was given.
She also said the detective raised his voice considerably, though Cox denied this.
District Court Judge Douglas Walker said he had seen the tape, would view it again and he would decide if the detective was yelling or raising his voice.
Citing case law, Telfer pointed out the accusations of false statements were grounds for the suppression, and mentioned the profanity the detective used.
Jack Roth, from the Colorado attorney general's office, who is assisting the local DA's office with this case, said Hampson was never in custody when he was interviewed, and added being in the sheriff's office does not mean a person is in custody.
Hampson went to the sheriff's office voluntarily, responding to a request from law enforcement officials.
Roth said when the defendant decided to leave at the end of the meeting he left on his own accord, even though Cox had told him to sit and wait to allow him to be let out.
The sheriff's office team working on the case was deciding at that time whether there was probable cause to make an arrest, said Lt. Ted Meador. No arrest was made until later that night.
Roth said every statement the defendant made while being interviewed was made willingly.
"This is no babe in the woods," he said referencing to Hampson's criminal history. He added that the defendant knows the judicial process.
Roth added that every time Hampson invoked his right to remain silent he continued to talk.
In another matter, the court heard testimony about a Hampson acquaintance, who the sheriff's office used to tape statements from the defendant.
The acquaintance, an admitted past methamphetamine user who has been involved in the judicial process while living in California, asked authorities if they could assist her with a federal charge pending against her.
Cox said he told the woman they would not be assisting her with that case, and testified that she said "well I had to ask."
Cox also testified he was the lead investigator in an alleged 2009 rape where it was reported the woman's daughter had been the victim. Charges were never filed.
When asked how much confidence the sheriff's office had in a woman with a checkered history, including her past affiliation with the Norteno street gang and previous drug use, he said there was no doubt she would be able to assist them.
Walker said he would be issuing a ruling to the attorney on the suppression matters soon.
He also scheduled another hearing for March 6 to discuss other matters related to the case.
Hampson's murder trial is scheduled to begin on April 1.