A Fayette County judge has suppressed interrogation videos of two defendants charged in the death of University of Kentucky student Jonathan Krueger because Lexington detectives violated the teens’ rights during the investigation.
The police videos featuring interviews with Roman Gonzalez and Justin Delone Smith will not be admitted when their cases go to trial March 6.
Judge Ernesto Scorsone said the then-teens’ Fifth Amendment rights were violated, according to court documents.
“The court finds that the detectives violated Gonazalez’s Fifth Amendment due process rights by continuing to interview him when he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive, expressly or impliedly, his right to remain silent and his right to counsel,” Scorsone said in his Oct. 26 ruling.
The 96-minute-long video of his police interrogation was captured on April 20, 2015, just three days after Krueger was shot and killed while walking home on East Maxwell Street. The full video was shown in court on Aug. 23, 2016. In the video, Gonzalez, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, can be seen talking to police investigators Bill Brislin and Reid Bowles.
“All I know is I’m probably going to go to jail,” Gonzalez said in the video. “I’m trying to think about how much time I’m looking at.”
Transcripts of the video showed instances when Gonzalez did not waive his Fifth Amendment Miranda rights, Scorsone said. The following exchange was included in court documents.
“Gonzalez: Where can I get an attorney at?
“Detective Bowles: The court will appoint one for ya. That’ll be after you get down to the detention center and everything else so.
“Gonzalez: The only reason I didn’t say anything is cause I just want to have my lawyer.
“Detective Bowles: Well this is what we’re gonna do ok so you know. So we can get you off and on the way to jail so you can get your lawyer ok.”
“Detectives exacerbated the situation by providing incorrect information about his right to an attorney,” the judge said.
The violation of Smith’s Fifth Amendment rights was clearer, according to Scorsone’s Nov. 17 ruling. During Smith’s first interview, which lasted about 52 minutes, he said “I ain’t got nuttin to say” eight times to detectives Bowles and Brislin. Both detectives did not act on Smith’s eight statements. Smith was 18 at the time.
“Detective Bowles and Brislin did not scrupulously honor his [Smith] requests because they continued to interrogate him even after he made assertions invoking his right,” Scorsone wrote in his decision. “Rather than ceasing all questioning, the detectives attempted to persuade Smith to reconsider his invocation.”
Prosecutor Andrea Williams declined to comment Tuesday, as did the Lexington police.
Gonzalez’s attorney Carmen Ross said, “In any criminal proceeding you always want to make sure that your client receives a fair trial. We believe the judge’s ruling will ensure that.”
Gonzalez, Smith and a third man, Efrain Diaz, were each charged with robbery and murder in Krueger’s killing. Smith also was charged with tampering with evidence and evading police. In July 2015, Gonzalez, Diaz and Smith each pleaded not guilty. Police say all three men have ties to the Almighty Ambrose street gang.
Gonzalez’s bond was set at $1 million; he faces the possibility of a life sentence. Diaz and Smith were denied bail and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Krueger, the photo editor at UK’s student newspaper, and Aaron Gillette were walking home about 2 a.m. April 17, 2015, on East Maxwell Street near Transylvania Park when the defendants pulled up in a van, police said. All three were armed, according to police testimony in an earlier hearing. When Krueger and Gillette attempted to resist during the armed robbery, Krueger, 22, was shot multiple times while Gillette got away, police said.
Diaz and Smith have identified Gonzalez as the shooter, according to a detective’s testimony in an earlier hearing.
Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso