A judge has rejected the defense suggestion that Albuquerque Police Department detectives questioned “mobbing” murder suspect Jeremiah King so relentlessly that his will was “overborne,” in the language of a seminal case from 1860, and King changed his story as a result.
That means his statement, in which he eventually says he fired three times, can be used at his trial, currently set to take place in October.
King was one of six youths charged in the June 2015 murder. Ryan Archibeque entered a June plea to four felonies that expose him to a potential 15-year sentence. Co-defendants Andrew Hubler and Christopher Rodriguez are set for district court trials in December and January. Charges against two other defendants are being handled in juvenile court.
King was a 16-year-old homeless dropout at the time he was questioned by APD Detectives Leah Acata and Joshua Brown about the series of “mobbing” incidents by youths breaking into cars and homes, culminating in the fatal shooting of bartender Steve Gerecke in the driveway of his home. King’s attorney, Tom Clark, seeking to exclude the statements, argued that his young client told detectives four times that they were confusing him, that he had no family or attorney present, and that King denied the shooting 24 times before finally admitting he was the gunman.
Clark also contended that King was misled by having police falsely tell him the prosecution and judge would go easier on him if he told the truth.
Assistant District Attorney Larissa Callaway said in a responsive filing that King was interrogated for less than an hour after being advised of his rights and saying he understood them. She said detectives did not exploit “a perceived racial bias, and they did not try to come off as King’s best friend, either.”
By the time he was interviewed, investigators “had amassed significant physical evidence against Jeremiah King, not least of which was the statements from the other boys,” she said in the document. The fact that they mentioned such evidence to counter King’s misrepresentations doesn’t mean they were hostile or too aggressive, Callaway countered.
Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless wrote in a Thursday order that he rejected “any suggestion that the detectives badgered (King) into confessing,” noting that he “carefully changed his story as the detectives presented additional information about their investigation.”
The record, according to Loveless, demonstrates that King tried to gauge what detectives knew, weighed his options and answered questions based on a balance of competing considerations.
There were no threats – the detectives, in fact, were cordial throughout the interview – and the defendant “appeared to be very mature,” Loveless said in the opinion.
Some of King’s responses to questions, such as his statements that there shouldn’t have been any fingerprints on the gun and that he knew he was going to jail, show that he had a “relatively sophisticated understanding of criminal proceedings,” the court said.