The confession by a Davis teenager accused of killing an elderly couple last year can be used at trial, a Yolo Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
The murder trial of Daniel Marsh is set for April 14, exactly one year after the stabbing deaths of Davis attorney and musician Oliver Northup and local church official Claudia Maupin.
Attorneys for Marsh argued the 16-year-old was coerced by experienced lawmen who promised mental help and leniency for the troubled teen.
But after privately viewing the video recording of Marsh’s police interview, Yolo Superior Court Judge David Reed denied the defense motion. He said a poised Marsh “did not appear intimidated” by police investigators, calling him “well-spoken, intelligent – perhaps beyond his years. He showed sophistication, especially for a 16-year-old young man.”
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Reed said the teen spoke candidly about his mental health issues, discussing his psychiatric hospitalization in late 2012, and that he continued to talk with his questioners after he was placed under arrest.
Prosecutors said Marsh challenged his questioners throughout his five-hour interview with Davis police and federal investigators. At one point, he tried to negotiate with officers, saying “Since it’s based on rumors, let me go home first,” before uttering an expletive and confessing to the killings.
“He realized he had a choice to make – to not say anything or say something,” said Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral. “He says, ‘I’m (expletive) anyway.’ He knowingly, intelligently waived his rights that day.”
Marsh, appearing tense and worn, was flanked by his attorneys, Yolo County public defenders Ronald Johnson and Andrea Pelochino. Family and friends of the victims were in the courtroom gallery Friday, as were those of Marsh.
Pelochino said Davis police and FBI investigators used a ruse to bring Marsh to Davis police headquarters under the guise of talking with him about a school matter before turning the questioning toward the couple’s deaths.
Cabral later said his office was fine with the tactic.
“No doubt they brought (Marsh) under a ruse, but they didn’t use it in any fashion other than to bring him there,” he said after the morning hearing.
During Marsh’s long interview with Davis and federal authorities, Pelochino said investigators capitalized on a vulnerable Marsh isolated from family, friends and legal counsel, with one telling him, “I’m here to help you. I’m here to heal you.”
At other points during the interview, Marsh reportedly told investigators that he would rather be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment than sent to jail, but investigators said the road to help would have to be paved by a confession to the killings. Pelochino also argued that Marsh repeatedly asked to go home, equal to invoking his right to remain silent.
“Daniel was not asking to call his parent. He’s asking to go home multiple times,” Pelochino said, adding police should have been “put on notice” that Marsh wanted to invoke his Miranda rights.
Davis police investigators in September described Marsh clad in black clothes, carrying a hunting blade and roaming Davis streets before breaking into the elderly couple’s south Davis condominium as they slept. Investigators said Marsh described feeling “exhilarated” as he watched over their bed, before attacking them when they awakened.
Marsh’s attorneys initially sought to close Friday’s hearing to the public, arguing that details from the police interview could unfairly prejudice potential jurors. Reed kept the hearing open but agreed to watch the interview video in his chambers.
After the hearing, Maupin’s daughter Victoria Hurd said family and friends were “ecstatic about today’s decision,” saying the support received in the year since the killings “restores faith in humanity in the midst of this depravity.”