Judge Grants Motion to Suppress Evidence in Bustamante Case
Originally published June 22, 2011 at 9 a.m., updated June 22, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
According to court documents, Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce has sustained a motion by lawyers of Alyssa Bustamante to suppress evidence in her murder case.
Bustamante is accused of killing nine-year-old Elizabeth Olten, near St. Martins, in October 2009.
The order states that despite the custodial setting, the statements made to Detective David Rice by Bustamante during an interrogation could still have been admissible, but for the actions of the juvenile officer, Tobie Meyer, who disregarded the requirement that she not participate in the questioning.
According to the order, Meyer engaged actively in the questioning and made numerous statements to Bustamante despite the fact that Meyer knew Bustamante was the suspect in the murder of Olten.
Meyer, the order states, misled the defendant by using deceptive tactics during the interrogation of Bustamante by telling Bustamante that she, Meyer, was there as Bustamante's "advocate."
That deception, according to the court order, likely misled Bustamante into believe that Meyer was there to look after her best interests when she repeatedly encouraged Bustamante to tell the truth.
"Ms. Meyer's participation in the interrogation of the the defendant went far beyond her statutory role as juvenile officer which is limited to observation and protection of the juvenile's right," according to court order signed by Joyce.
As of now, Bustamante's trial is still scheduled to start in September with a jury from Greene County to be brought to Cole County to hear the case.
HERE'S THE LATEST FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ON THIS STORY:
By DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has blocked prosecutors from using part of a teenager’s statement to police in her upcoming murder trial for the slaying of a 9-year-old neighbor girl.
In a decision released Wednesday, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce said a juvenile officer wrongly participated in a state Highway Patrol interview of Alyssa Bustamante and “used deceptive tactics” while the teenager was being questioned about the death of Elizabeth Olten in October 2009.
Bustamante, who was 15 at the time of Elizabeth’s death, has pleaded not guilty to an adult charge of first-degree murder. Her trial is scheduled for Sept. 13.
At a November 2009 hearing in which Bustamante was certified to stand trial as an adult, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. David Rice testified that she had confessed to the slaying and led authorities to Elizabeth’s well-concealed body in the woods near where the two girls lived just a few houses apart in the Jefferson City suburb of St. Martins. Rice testified that Bustamante “stated she wanted to know what it felt like” to kill someone.
It was unclear from the court order released Wednesday whether that particular statement would be inadmissible during Bustamante’s trial. The judge’s suppression ruling referenced a page and line number on a transcript of Bustamante’s videotaped statement, which has not been publicly released. The defense motion to suppress the statement had been filed under seal.
Bustamante’s attorney, Charles Moreland, said he was prohibited from detailing whether the judge’s order suppressed the statements referenced in court in 2009, or even whether the order covered most or only a small portion of Bustamante’s statement.
But “what may have been heard at the juvenile hearing is not going to be relevant for what’s heard at this trial,” Moreland said. “When this thing is tried, the jury is going to hear a very different case than what was heard at that juvenile hearing.”
Because Bustamante was in juvenile custody at the time of her statement, anything she said to juvenile officer Tobie Meyer is inadmissible in her adult criminal proceeding, the judge said. The court order initially released Wednesday said Bustamante’s statements to patrol officer Rice could have been used in an adult court trial had Meyer not participated in the questioning. But that assertion was deleted in what the court described as a corrected order released later Wednesday. Both orders were dated Tuesday and signed by Joyce.
“Ms. Meyer used deceptive tactics during the interrogation of defendant by telling defendant that she was there as the defendant’s ‘advocate,”’ Joyce wrote while noting the juvenile officer’s role should have been limited to observation and protection of Bustamante’s rights.
“This deception likely mislead the defendant into believing that Ms. Meyer was there to look after her best interests when she encouraged defendant repeatedly to tell the truth,” Joyce said in originally released court order. The revised version struck the reference to repeatedly encouraging Bustamante to tell the truth.
The administrator of the Cole County juvenile office did not immediately respond to a message left Wednesday by The Associated Press.
A representative of the prosecutor’s office also did not immediately return a telephone message.
At the November 2009 hearing, authorities also had testified that Bustamante dug two holes in the ground to be used as a grave, then attended school for about a week while waiting for the right time to commit a murder. Law officers said Elizabeth had been at Bustamante’s home on the day in which she was strangled, cut and stabbed with a knife.
Hundreds of volunteers participated in a two-day search for Elizabeth before her body was found.
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