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Admissibility of Hicks' alleged confession at issue in second day of murder trial

April 26, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Darrell Hicks
Darrell Hicks

HAGERSTOWN — The second day of Darrell Hicks’ murder trial in Washington County Circuit Court began with the defense and state sparring over whether a defense line of questioning opened the door to the jury hearing a suppressed statement by Hicks in which he allegedly confessed to the stabbing his roommate to death.

Hicks, 54, of Hagerstown, is charged with first- and second-degree murder and carrying a deadly weapon in the death of Darrin Pressman, whose decomposing body was discovered in the West Franklin Street apartment they shared on June 3, 2011. That same day, Hicks reportedly confessed to the killing to investigators at the end of a videotaped interview that lasted nearly nine hours.

Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer ruled in December that the confession was inadmissible because detectives continued questioning Hicks after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to end the interview.

On Wednesday Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa asked lead detective Tammy Jurado of the Hagerstown Police Department whether investigators had performed a number of tests, including fingerprinting the crime scene or DNA testing of blood found in the apartment, or had searched Pressman’s phone, bank, debit card and computer records.

Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson argued Thursday morning that the line of questioning by Villa of Jurado, opened the door to the state being allowed to introduce testimony or evidence or Hicks’ statement. Otherwise, he argued, the jury would not know why police did not conduct the tests.

“The answer is we had a confession that matched the findings at the scene,” Wilson said. “We are withholding an important fact from the jury.”

“The state’s argument, in part, is that this case is about the truth,” Villa argued to Dwyer. “Fairness is what this case is about.”

Villa argued that allowing Hicks’ statement to be introduced would again violate his constitutional rights.

“The state is asking the court to provide a cure that will almost certainly result in a first-degree murder conviction for my client,” Villa said.

Additionally, the statement was suppressed in December,  giving the state several months to test surviving evidence, such as blood DNA, before the trial started, Villa told the court.

Villa said her questions about Pressman’s cell phone records were opened by state witness Karen Haws, who testified she had called his phone and left messages.

Wilson told Dwyer the defense made the choice to argue that the state had no evidence against Hicks and the state should be allowed to offer rebuttal.

Dwyer ruled that the line of questioning was not improper and denied Wilson’s request that a mistrial be declared.

Before the trial resumed, a juror was replaced with an alternate after he informed the court that he had seen a newscast in which he heard Hicks had allegedly confessed to the stabbing.

Jurado returned to the stand late Thursday morning and testified the additional forensic tests were not done because the investigation and interview of witnesses indicated “they would not have been necessary.

Jurado also testified that there was no evidence of forced entry to Pressman’s bedroom through either of two doors or by the windows. A door leading to the second floor hallway of the apartment house was partially blocked by a duffel bag, which would have been pushed out of the way had someone from outside the apartment opened it, she testified.

Blood was found on and around door that led from Pressman’s bedroom to a part of the apartment occupied by Hicks, Jurado testified.

Pressman was stabbed six times in the torso and had 10 cuts and lacerations to his face and scalp, Maryland Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Jack Titus testified. The state of decomposition indicated that the body could have been lying in the bedroom three to five days, but temperature and other factors could affect the rate of decomposition, he testified.

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