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Defense wants evidence tossed

July 19, 2012
Jodelle Greiner - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

BLUE EARTH - Attorneys for Brian Daniel Freeman, 29, argued Wednesday that some evidence against their client should be thrown out of his murder trial.

Prosecutors countered by trying to show the evidence was gathered legally.

Freeman himself took the stand to testify about being questioned by authorities as well as his state of mind on Feb. 20, in the wake of the early-morning homicide in Blue Earth.

Freeman faces 11 felony counts, including murder in the first degree, in the death of Christopher Fulmer, 37, of Blue Earth.

Freeman also is accused of severely injuring his wife, Candice Freeman, and her two teenage daughters.

Freeman allegedly broke into Fulmer's residence and attacked him and the three females with a hammer, causing head injuries to all four.

Candice Freeman and one of her daughters were present at the hearing Wednesday. At times, they huddled in each other's arms.

Faribault County Attorney Troy Timmerman called three witnesses: Special Agent Michael Anderson and Agent Drew Evans, both of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and Sheriff Mike Gormley of Faribault County.

Timmerman asked all three men what happened Feb. 20, from the minute they were called to the scene at 414 E. Fourth St., to how and when they questioned Freeman, about his trips to Rochester and Ceylon, when he was read his Miranda rights, and how evidence was gathered.

Freeman was interviewed multiple times that day by Gormley and Anderson, first at United Hospital District in Blue Earth, then at his residence in Ceylon, and finally in a family room at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.

At first, Freeman gave basic information about his relationship to Candice Freeman and the two teenagers, investigators said. But over the course of the day, Freeman's story changed, according to the officers.

Initially, Freeman said he was sleeping at home in Ceylon when he woke up and realized he had missed a call, Anderson told the court. Then Freeman came to UHD.

Later, while being questioned at St. Marys, Freeman changed his story, authorities say.

Investigators say Freeman admitted he wasn't in Ceylon, that he had actually been in Blue Earth. At first, Freeman said he went to Fulmer's residence and encountered a masked man, who gestured at him, splattering him with the blood.

"The story didn't match the evidence," Anderson said.

Freeman then changed his story, the officers said, claiming he rendered aid to Fulmer and did not see an intruder.

At that point, Gormley and Anderson took a break, leaving Freeman in the family room, where he had access to a phone and food.

After consulting, the officers read Freeman his Miranda rights, telling him "the stories he had given us weren't accurate," Anderson said.

They read him his rights because they "wanted to interview him more intensely," Anderson said.

That's when Freeman acknowledged he was responsible for the attack, but claimed he had gaps in his memory and that he just "lost it," Anderson said. Investigators say Freeman then admitted to attacking Fulmer but claimed the females were injured when they got caught in the "crossfire."

After Freeman was arrested, officers allowed him to sit in a recliner, not handcuffed, Gormley said.

"He actually went to sleep," Gormley said.

Freeman's attorney, Scott Cutcher, chief public defender for the Fifth District, cross-examined the investigators, emphasizing when they interviewed Freeman, what evidence Freeman voluntarily handed over before being advised of his rights, when they advised him of his Miranda rights and, specifically, when Freeman was free to go and when he was detained.

The Miranda rights, named after the domestic violence trial of Ernesto Arturo Miranda in 1966, include the right to remain silent and a warning that if you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. It also advises of the right to an attorney and that if you can not afford an attorney, one will be appointed. The person is then asked if they understand these rights.

The Miranda rights must be read "when you think you'll arrest somebody," Gormley said after the hearing.

"It is important to note that Miranda rights do not go into effect until after an arrest is made," according to www.mirandarights.org. "The officer is free to ask questions before an arrest, but must inform the suspect that the questioning is voluntary and that he or she is free to leave at any time. The answers to these questions are admissible in court."

Cutcher repeatedly questioned investigators whether Freeman was detained or could reasonably believe he was detained while being questioned throughout that day.

After the three men were questioned, Freeman took the stand. Carrie Leone, Cutcher's co-counsel, questioned him, but stipulated that the scope of the questions would be limited to his being "interrogated" by the officers and his state of mind that day.

Most of her questions centered on whether Freeman believed he was free to leave while being questioned by officers and whether he felt he had a choice in turning over his DNA, truck and clothing to them.

Leone asked Freeman where the officers' vehicles were parked in relation to his truck and if he felt he could have left the parking lot while being questioned by Anderson.

"No," Freeman answered.

She asked if he felt he had any alternative to signing the consent statement.

"No," Freeman answered.

"Do you feel you were voluntarily turning over the truck?" Leone asked.

"No," Freeman said.

"Did you have a conversation about keeping the truck?" she asked.

"Yes," Freeman said.

"Were you awake, without sleep since very early morning?" she asked.

"Yes," Freeman said.

Freeman went on to say he didn't feel he had a choice in turning over what prosecutors say were his bloody clothes, and had not given permission for officers to search his mother's vehicle, which he had been riding in to Rochester and Ceylon.

Freeman said he stayed in the family room at St. Marys because he didn't feel he was allowed to leave when the two officers took a break about a half-hour into their questioning.

"After the first break, they came back and read me my Miranda rights," Freeman said.

Timmerman cross-examined Freeman, pointing out Leone used the word "interrogation" to describe the questioning, but Timmerman asked, "They were all pretty cordial, weren't they? Was it an interrogation or conversation?"

"Conversation until the end," Freeman replied.

Timmerman noted the family room was designed for the comfort of the families of patients at St. Marys.

"The officers were leaving you in your room," he said. "You didn't ask to go."

Timmerman referred to the transcript of the interview done in St. Marys.

"Anderson asks: This is the truth?" Timmerman read. "Yes (Freeman replied). Made of your own free will? (Anderson asks). Yes, being honest as much as I can (Freeman replied).

"They didn't make you say that?" Timmerman asked Freeman.

"No, they did not," Freeman answered.

Timmerman stated the reason Freeman was tired was because he was at a firemen's dance the night of Feb. 19 and didn't actually go to sleep that night. Instead, Timmerman said, Freeman went to Blue Earth and killed Fulmer.

"Objection," Leone protested.

Judge Douglas Richards sustained the objection.

At the end of Wednesday's hearing, attorneys on both sides said they were satisfied with the outcome.

"I think it went just as I expected," Timmerman said.

"I think we got out all the evidence that we wanted to," Leone said.

Cutcher has until Aug. 24 to submit an argument to Wednesday's testimony. Timmerman has two weeks to answer Cutcher's brief. Sometime after Sept. 7, Richards will decide what evidence will be allowed at trial.

"We'll wait for the judge to make his decision and go from there," Cutcher said.

 
 

 

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