Statements made by Johnson, accused of murder and arson, can be used at trial, judge rules
Statements attributed to Kyle Johnson after he was taken into custody the morning of Dec. 1, after he allegedly shot and killed a neighbor and set his own home ablaze, will be admissible in court, Acting Judge Michael F. Pietruszka ruled today.
The defense challenged whether the prosecution could use the statements at a possible trial and Pietruszka issued his ruling immediately after a hearing that featured testimony by Deputy Andrew Hale.
Hale completed a report Dec. 1 in which he says Johnson made a handful of statements when he was taken into custody, in the patrol car ride to the Sheriff's Office on Park Road and as they arrived in the interview room at the office.
Hale testified that he was on routine patrol duty when he was called to a house fire at 7324 Selden Road, Le Roy. He was in uniform in a marked patrol car. He was aware of a shooting reported minutes before at a residence a short distance from the fire location.
He said he was also informed by dispatch that the residence was owned by Kyle Johnson, that Johnson had a mental health history and was known to own firearms.
He arrived on scene just as shots rang out, apparently directed at a Le Roy fire chief and at a Le Roy police officer.
As he ran down the road to check the status of Officer Ryan Young, now a Sheriff's deputy, and as he did, he encountered local residents standing outside their home. They asked what was going on and Hale told them to get inside, lock their doors and windows and stay there until told it was safe to come outside.
As he moved toward Young's position, Hale encountered Johnson, he said.
"Mr. Johnson stated to me that he wanted to be shot," Hale said. "After he realized I was not going to shoot him, he turned around and walked back toward his house."
Over the next couple of hours, Johnson would periodically approach Hale and ask him to shoot him.
When emergency response teams arrived, this back-and-forth continued for a couple of more hours until Johnson finally surrendered.
Hale was summoned to search and cuff the suspect. When he was putting Johnson in his patrol vehicle, Johnson reportedly complained that the cuffs were too tight.
When Hale sat in the driver's seat, Johnson reportedly said, he "didn't appreciate being treated like an animal."
Hale said, "I told him I appreciate being shot at and having my friends shot at."
Johnson, Hale said, apologized.
On the ride back to the Sheriff's Office, Johnson reportedly said, "I didn't mean to hurt anybody."
Hale said he responded, "You did. It's traumatic for us as officers. You shouldn't have done that."
At the station, Hale offered Johnson a glass of water and asked if he needed anything.
Johnson's response, according to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, was that he felt bad for burning his house down and that he shouldn't have done that and he wanted to apologize.
In cross-examination, Public Defender Jerry Ader established that Hale did not read Johnson his Miranda warnings (you have the right not to speak, right to an attorney, etc.), that Hale did this though he knew Johnson had a mental health history, and that Hale asked a couple of questions of Johnson.
Those facts were the basis for Ader's motion to bar the statements from any possible trial.
Friedman countered that Johnson was not in custody at that point for the purpose of interrogation, and any questions asked by Hale were not an interrogation, such as asking if Johnson wanted water, that the statements were made voluntarily and should be admissible.
Johnson is charged with murder and burglary in the death of Norman D. "Don" Ball. He is accused of attempted murder for allegedly shooting at Young and Le Roy Fire Chief Tim Hogle.
Ader has received a report based on a psychological exam of Johnson and is apparently planning a defense around the results of that report, and while the report has been given to Friedman, a copy was not given to the court. Ader said he wasn't aware of any requirement that he provide the court with a copy. Pietruszka was clearly miffed that he didn't have a copy of the report, especially since there will need to be a hearing on the topic after the DA's Office completes its own exam and gets its own report.
That hearing will be at 1:30 p.m., July 21.