In which prosecutors must keep their promises, and talking to the police does little good

Last week the New Mexico Supreme Court issued its decision in State v. Donovan King, a case where the defendant was convicted of murder and tampering with evidence.

After being detained, a police officer relayed a prosecutor’s offer not to file tampering with evidence charges against Mr. King if he would lead police to the murder weapon. Mr. King did so, but the prosecutor charged filed tampering charges against him anyway, and obtained a conviction.

Summary of Justice Bosson’s opinion on that point: No, you can’t do that. Tampering with evidence conviction reversed.

During post-arrest questioning, Mr. King told police that he had acted in self-defense. At trial, Mr. King declined to testify, but sought to have his exculpatory statement admitted into evidence. The trial court refused.

Summary of the opinion on this point: Self-serving statements to police are inadmissible hearsay.

So in sum, Mr. King led police to the murder weapon, and managed to avoid a tampering charge while helping the State to get a murder conviction. And he asserted his innocence to police, but that did him no good because his statement wasn’t admissible. (Of course, if he had made admissions tending to show his guilt, those statements would be admissible).

This all goes to show that there’s little to be gained by talking to the police after one is arrested (as Prof. James Duane shows in this Internet phenomenon of a video). If you’re ever arrested, demand to talk with a lawyer. And then — shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!

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