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Judge Says Tape of Chardon Shooting Suspect’s Family Can Be Played in Court

Friday, December 28, 2012 at 11:18 PM

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The judge in the Chardon High School shooting ruled this week that the tape of a conversation among the family members of suspect T.J. Lane can be used as evidence in court. Lane’s defense had hoped to suppress the recording. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.

According to court testimony, on the day of the shooting in February, T.J. Lane’s parents and two grandparents went to the police station to find his sister. Police led the family to an interview room. As they entered, motion sensors triggered a camera and microphone to begin recording.

Lane’s defense said the family believed their conversations in this room were private, and the tape should not be used in court. The prosecution said there’s no expectation of privacy in those circumstances. Nick Burling is the assistant prosecutor in Geauga County.

BURLING: “A police interview room is just not where a regular person can go and have a private conversation.”

Judge David Fuhry agreed with him, and denied the defense’s motion to suppress. Burling says the tape could be used in court if the defense calls family members to the stand.

BURLING: “And if they testify to anything that’s different than what they said in that room, we can use those statements to impeach their credibility.”

This isn’t the first time the court has ruled on video recordings in this case. The defense tried to suppress video of Lane’s statements to police, saying Lane wasn’t read his rights properly. That was denied, too.

Case Western Reserve University law professor Michael Benza says over the past 10 to 15 years, it’s become very common for police to record their work.  On one hand, he says, the exposure dissuades police from forcing confessions.

BENZA: “On the other hand, we have seen these cases where the police have come in and hidden the microphones and listening devices in the rooms or in the squad cars, and don’t tell people that they’re recording, and whether or not that’s an acceptable practice.”

The defense declined to comment for this story. Lane’s trial is set to begin Jan. 14. 

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Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement

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