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Judge considers motion to suppress statement

June 08, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A Hagerstown man charged with killing his girlfriend's baby in January appeared Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court for a motions hearing to suppress a statement he made about the death.

Floyd Edward Bingaman III, 21, of 17308 Amber Drive, faces a charge of first-degree murder, among other charges, in the Jan. 6 death of 4-month-old Justice Calvin Stotler.

Bingaman is being represented by former Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department alleges in charging documents that Bingaman, who was Ashley Stotler's boyfriend at the time, shook the baby and banged his head while his mother took a shower earlier that evening.

After hearing witness testimony and arguments from Rolle and Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil, Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley said he would take the motion under consideration and issue a ruling at a later date.

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At issue during the hearing was a statement Bingaman made to Washington County Sheriff's deputies.

Investigator Tara Bender testified Thursday that she heard Bingaman say, "even if it wasn't intentional" in response to an outburst by Investigator Kenneth A. Barnhart.

Lt. Mark Knight testified that he heard Bingaman say "wasn't intentional."

After Bingaman was interrogated, arrested and requested a lawyer, Barnhart walked into a room where Bender was asking Bingaman routine questions and filling out paperwork.

Barnhart called Bingaman a name, said "... you just killed a 4-month-old baby," and called him another name, Barnhart testified Thursday.

Barnhart made the statement because he was frustrated and needed to vent after investigating the infant's death, he testified.

Rolle argued Thursday that Barnhart's statement was made to get Bingaman to speak and was a form of interrogation.

Citing previous cases, Rolle said that all questioning must cease after a suspect requests an attorney. Not just questions, but other exchanges and communication can be interpreted as interrogation, Rolle said.

Therefore, "the court should absolutely suppress (Bingaman's) statement," Rolle said.

Rolle also called Barnhart's remarks "profane, unprofessional and unethical."

Veil agreed that statements don't have to be made in the form of questions to be construed as interrogation. Veil, also citing previous cases, said the intent of police involved is not irrelevant.

"The court must consider the totality of circumstances," he said.

Barnhart was venting, and he did not intend to elicit a response, Veil said.

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