A teenager's statements to police about the accidental shooting of his 2-year-old brother will not be used at the youth's trial after a Washington County Circuit Court judge ruled his rights were violated during questioning.
Marcus Deon Longus, 17, is charged as an adult with obstructing police, making false statements, leaving a firearm accessible to a minor and other firearm violations in the Sept. 27, 2010, incident in which Mario Longus shot himself in the chest with a stolen handgun.
Mario Longus was paralyzed by the gunshot, a county Department of Social Services official said last month in a juvenile court proceeding involving Marcus Longus's girlfriend, Fantaisa Rivera.
The interview of Marcus Longus was videotaped by police and played at his suppression hearing before Beachley in February.
Longus, who is scheduled for trial in April, and others who were in the Little Elliott Drive apartment when the shooting occurred were told at the scene that they were not free to leave, were searched and driven by police to headquarters, Beachley wrote. There was no evidence Longus volunteered to go to the police department to be interviewed, and he was there for seven hours before the interview, the judge wrote.
"Although the Defendant was not handcuffed or otherwise physically restrained, he was monitored by a police officer. At no time did the detectives or any other law enforcement officer advise the Defendant that he was free to leave," Beachley wrote.
Longus was essentially in custody during the interrogation and should have been advised of his Miranda rights allowing him to remain silent and have an attorney represent him, Beachley wrote.
Longus was on community detention as a juvenile and wearing an electronic monitor when interviewed, Beachley wrote. Longus asked detectives to tell his probation officer why he was away from home so that he would not violate his detention, he wrote.
"If you help us out, we'll help you out," Detective Paul Hoover told Longus in response, Beachley wrote. That statement could have been interpreted by Longus as meaning Hoover and Detective Jason Ackerman would intercede on his behalf if he cooperated, making it an improper inducement, he wrote.
That rendered Longus' statements involuntary, Beachley wrote.
Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa said Tuesday that the ruling means Longus' statement cannot be used against him at trial, and "if my client chooses to testify, the state can also not use his statement to impeach his testimony."
Longus "never made a full confession" on the videotape, and it was one piece of the state's case, Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson said.
"We still have enough evidence to go forward" with a trial, Wilson said.
Rivera was also charged as an adult for taking the stolen gun and hiding it in a playground after the shooting. Her case was later transferred to juvenile court.