Attorney for Urvizu-Hanlon attempting to suppress statements she may have made to police
|Jennifer K. Urvizu-Hanlon|
Whether certain statements Jennifer K. Urvizu-Hanlon made while in custody May 18, during the police investigation into a homicide and shooting the day before on Central Avenue in the city, can be used against her in court will be decided by Judge Charles Zambito by Jan. 4.
Urvizu-Hanlon appeared in court today for a hearing on the admissibility of those statements, called a Huntley Hearing (or a suppression hearing), and her attorney tried to use his time in court to also press for statements and notes from police that he believes his client has been wrongfully denied as he prepares to take her case to trial.
Whether Hanlon's statements can be used may come down to how Zambito views, within the scope of prior case law, two things Hanlon said during her interview with Det. Thad Mart, Batavia PD, that may indicate she had doubts about talking with police.
During the interview, she apparently said, "If I'm guilty of something I should have somebody here, I guess," and "I guess I should have somebody here" followed by "I don't have a lawyer."
A short time later she specifically asked for an attorney, at which point Mart terminated the interview and, apparently with enough evidence at that point, placed her under arrest.
Urvizu-Hanlon, the former owner of La Mexicana store on East Main Street in Batavia, is charged with criminal liability for conduct of another/criminal possession of a weapon, 2nd. She is accused of giving a handgun, which she was permitted to carry, to Samuel R. Blackshear, a 17-year-old accused of shooting Nathaniel D. Wilson Jr., who murdered Terry J. Toote with a knife on Central Avenue on May 17.
In a discussion after the hearing, with a reporter present, between defense attorney Christian Kennedy and First Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini, Kennedy said he doesn't dispute that the statements were equivocal.
Prior case law makes it clear, and Kennedy said he knew he would lose a motion on this point, because saying "I guess" or "maybe" is equivocal, whereas a statement like, "I want to speak to an attorney," or even, "I want to speak to my dad," or "I want to speak to my friend" is unequivocal and any statements made after that point to police might not be admissible at trial.
Kennedy said he will base his written motion, to be filed later, on other grounds but did not disclose what his argument will be.
Det. Kevin Czora testified today followed by Det. Mart.
Czora said police obtained a warrant to search Urvizu-Hanlon's car as part of their investigation into the crimes on Central Avenue and that her car was located and stopped in the parking lot of Valu Plaza at about 2:25 p.m., May 18.
Urvizu-Hanlon was taken into custody for questioning and placed in the back of a police cruiser. At that point, she volunteered to an officer that there was a handgun in her car, as well as ammunition and that the gun was either on the passenger side next to the center console or in the trunk in a bag.
Czora then read her Miranda warnings (the right to an attorney, to remain silent, etc.) and she waived her rights. He then questioned her about the gun and its location.
At that point, Urvizu-Hanlon was transported to the police station where Mart questioned her.
The interview was videotaped and a DVD of that interview was placed into evidence.
Mart said Urvizu-Hanlon acknowledged that she had been read her rights and had waived those rights, agreeing to speak with him.
He said the interview started at 2:45 p.m. and terminated at 3:04 p.m. when she asked for an attorney.
The substance of the interview, other than her two statements about maybe she should talk with somebody, was not discussed during today's hearing.
When Kennedy questioned both Czora and Mart, he tried to ask questions about their involvement in the investigation on May 17 but Cianfrini objected to that being outside the scope of a Huntley Hearing and Zambito sustained the objection.
Kennedy said he had been denied "Rosario material," which refers to material in possession of the prosecution that may have a bearing on the case.
Zambito said Kennedy was entitled to Rosario material relevant to the Huntley Hearing (no such material was in dispute today) but statements, documents, and notes, won't become subject of a Rosario motion until trial, if there is a trial.
In 18 years of practicing law in other courts, Kennedy said, he had never been denied this material at this stage. This is a long-standing common complaint of defense attorneys in criminal cases in Genesee County Court.
The Batavian reported in September that Kennedy may be preparing a justification defense based on the idea that Blackshear and Hanlon had just witnessed Wilson murder Toote. Zambito has apparently issued a ruling limiting Kennedy's ability to use this defense. But based on today's discussion, Kennedy will present another motion and try to make the point that there is no case law that addresses this particular situation -- where the gun used was licensed and legally carried by the person who handed it over to a third party who used it.
As for the Huntley Hearing, there will be an additional written motion and argument filed by Kennedy and an opportunity for the people to answer. Zambito must also view the video of the interview. The case was put on the calendar for Jan. 4 with a written ruling from Zambito expected before that appearance.
■■ In my opinion, Ms. Urvizu-Hanlon's utterances of, "If I'm guilty of something I should have somebody here, I guess", "I guess I should have somebody here", and, "I don't have a lawyer", probably won't be found sufficient for her statements to be suppressed.
In the case leading up to Davis v. United States 512 U.S. 452 (1994), defendant Davis had told investigators, “Maybe I should talk to a lawyer”.
In Davis v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an ambiguous and unclear request for counsel, such as Davis’s “Maybe I should talk to a lawyer”, was not a sufficient request for a lawyer. The request for a lawyer must be clear and unambiguous.
Which brings up the (Louisiana) case of Warren Demesme.
Mr.Demesme, then 22, was being interrogated by New Orleans police in October 2015.
Demesme told the detectives: “This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dawg ’cause this is not what’s up.”
Well, it seems that whoever transcribed the interrogation audio tapes typed the word "dog" instead of "dawg". The Louisiana Supreme Court eventually ruled that the suspect was, in fact, asking for a “lawyer dog,” and not invoking his constitutional right to counsel. And, because there were no "dogs" that had passed the Louisiana bar exam, Mr. Demesme's claim that he had asked for a lawyer was rejected.
This is going to ne interesting