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Miranda warnings at issue in murder case

Attorneys debate whether Adrien Wallace understood his rights


Whether incriminating statements made by accused killer Adrien Graham Wallace can be used against him remained unclear this week.WALLACE

Attorneys on Tuesday debated whether law enforcement officials properly informed Wallace of his rights to legal counsel and to remain silent after taking him into custody June 4, 2012. If suppressed, none of his subsequent statements would be allowed as evidence in his upcoming trial.

Wallace, 42, is accused of shooting his mother, Saundra Sue Wallace, 71, and his nephew, Nicolas Brian Juarez, 16, who was visiting from Mountain View, Calif. The incident took place in the evening in the driveway of a house on Indian Springs Circle where Adrien Wallace lived with his mother.

He has been held in Clackamas County Jail on aggravated murder charges since then. Wearing a gray striped jail uniform and chains, he was escorted to Clackamas County Circuit Court by one sheriff’s deputy on Tuesday. He did not speak during the hearing.

His appearance has changed some since he was arrested a year ago. His previously shaved head is now covered in dark, wavy hair, and his beard is longer. He wears glasses, and he was allowed to free his right hand from cuffs at the hearing so he could take notes and communicate in writing with his attorneys, Laurie Bender and David Falls.

The defense attorneys have filed a notice that they will likely rely on the insanity defense, contending Wallace “suffered from a mental disease or defect and that he lacked substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of the conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law” at the time of the crime.

They have not argued for suppressing a 911 call in which their client allegedly confessed.

This week they called into question whether Wallace understood his constitutional rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present when talking to law enforcement officers after making that call.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Owen, who is prosecuting the case, called several of those officers to the stand on Tuesday.

Clackamas County Sheriff’s Dep. Kevin Bigler, who works on contract as a Wilsonville police officer, was among the first responders to the scene that evening on Indian Springs Circle, in an unincorporated area of Clackamas County off Childs Road. Wallace had called 911 to report the shooting, Bigler said, and was still on the phone with a dispatcher when officers arrived.

Wearing plastic Crocs shoes and appearing unarmed, Wallace held a cordless phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, said Bigler, who described the suspect’s demeanor as “complacent” and “cooperative” when he was taken into custody.

After he was put in handcuffs and was being escorted to a patrol car, Wallace made a “spontaneous” statement, Bigler said: “He said, ‘Take me to prison.’”

Bigler said he then read Wallace his Miranda rights, the list of warnings that law enforcement officials read to suspects in custody. Named for a 1960s case that went to the Supreme Court, Miranda warnings aim to ensure suspects don’t make self-incriminating statements without first being informed of their right to legal counsel and to remain silent.

He didn’t record himself reading those warnings and didn’t ask Wallace whether he understood his rights and was still willing to talk about what happened, because he wasn’t planning to interrogate him, Bigler said. But he did make an official time stamp after reading through the list so other officers would know the suspect had been “Mirandized,” he said.

Soon after, Detective Michael Copenhaver said, Wallace was transferred to a patrol vehicle equipped with a camera. Recorded footage showed the suspect “talking to himself,” saying he should have “put up a fight,” Copenhaver said.

Copenhaver didn’t think Wallace was re-read his rights before his interrogation at the sheriff’s office headquarters in Clackamas. During that interview, Wallace initiated the conversation, Copenhaver said. And while he appeared to have been drinking alcohol, he didn’t show impairment in his speech or balance, Copenhaver said.

Wallace told detectives he had an argument with his mother and nephew as they were leaving the house before going to his room, grabbing a rifle and nearby ammunition, then going outside and shooting his mom, just outside of her Toyota Prius, and his nephew, who was in the passenger seat.

Copenhaver said Wallace also mentioned making a full confession in his 911 call earlier that day and said the dispatcher “did a good job.”

As of Wednesday morning, Judge Jeffrey S. Jones hadn’t yet issued an official ruling on whether Wallace’s statements to police will be suppressed.

Jones did indicate he would allow evidence related to Wallace’s criminal history — as a juvenile, Wallace was reportedly committed to a youth facility after assaulting his sister — and statements in which he showed animosity toward another family member.

Wallace’s trial is set for October.