Murder suspect didn’t try to stop jailhouse interview, judge rules

Demarcus Harris is charged with murder in the shooting death of Darnell Bates in October 2014.
Demarcus Harris is charged with murder in the shooting death of Darnell Bates in October 2014. Fayette County jail

A murder defendant’s recorded interview with Lexington police won’t be suppressed at trial, a Fayette Circuit judge ruled Thursday.

The defense for Demarcus Harris, 24, argued that he had invoked his right not to incriminate himself and was coerced during a Dec. 8, 2015, interview with Lexington detectives at a jail in Columbus, Ohio.

But after listening to the full-two hour interview this month, Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael Jr. said Thursday that he didn’t hear Harris tell police that he wished to stop the interview. Rather, Harris kept talking, Ishmael said.

Nor did Ishmael find that detectives Tim Upchurch, Franz Wolff or Bryan Penix were coercive in talking with Harris. There was no shouting or anything to indicate that Harris was coerced, the judge said.

“I think his statement was voluntary,” Ishmael said.

Harris is accused of murder and robbery in the Oct. 5, 2014, shooting death of Darnell Bates.

Bates, 36, was shot in his home in the 400 block of Addie Street, when two men forced their way into the house. He died of a gunshot wound to the stomach.

The judge did say he had some concerns about the jail interview.

At one point, Harris clearly said, “I’m done.” And later, when a question was posed to him, Harris responded, “Do I have to answer this?”

The detectives didn’t directly answer him, but one told Harris, “It’s in your best interest to be honest, man.”

The interview kept going, but Ishmael wondered aloud whether Harris was invoking his right against self-incrimination.

The judge acknowledged Harris is not a lawyer but said, “This isn’t his first rodeo. He’s heard this (Miranda warning) before.”

If convicted, Harris could face the death penalty. The trial was to have started this month but has been rescheduled for April 30, 2018.

Two co-defendants, Caitlyn Conway, 24, and Charles Bruce Patton III, 24, have pleaded guilty to amended charges. They are expected to testify against Harris.