07/02/10 — Judge: Williams confession admissible in court

View Archive

Judge: Williams confession admissible in court

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on July 2, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones rejected Thursday a defense argument that a videotaped confession by accused murderer Brandon Lee Williams was inadmissible in court.

Williams is on trial for the murder of Silvia Benitez Morales in March 2008. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney Geoff Hulse argued that a statement made to Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies by Williams was involuntary. But Jones said the evidence showed Williams sought out detectives to speak with them and knowingly gave videotaped statements detailing the death of the Fremont mother of two at her home on Black Creek Road.

Jones found that Williams acted "knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently" when he asked to speak to lead investigator Detective Sgt. Tammy Odom and Detective Lt. Carl Lancaster a few months after the killing.

"The right to counsel is the defendant's to waive if he so chooses, and he is entitled to waive it in the absence of his attorney if he so desires," Jones said.

The jury was out of the courtroom during the argument.

Jones found that Miranda warnings, which include the right to remain silent when questioned, also were heeded appropriately.

The judge also said the two-hour period during which Williams was interrogated was not excessive.

The judge also seemed to praise a new law that requires detectives to videotape interviews in murder cases.

Williams' case was unique in that it was the first in which the Wayne County Sheriff's Office was required to make an audio recording of the proceedings. The Sheriff's Office decided to use video instead.

"The court had the opportunity to see and hear, and listen to, this video and hear the demeanor of not only the defendant, but also the demeanor of the law enforcement officers," Jones said.

The judge added he was also able to observe "facial expressions, eye contact or lack thereof during the interview process, the questions that were asked and the answers that were given, the tenor and tone of the voice used."

Jones also said the video gave insight into whether Williams "felt threatened or not."

However, Jones said any mention of lie detector tests -- which have never been proven scientifically and are not admissible evidence in courts of law -- must be redacted, or removed, from the video. He said he believed mention of lie detector tests would unfairly prejudice a jury.

The jury was expected to continue hearing evidence this morning.