Suspect in baby killing to remain jailed

By Peter H. Milliken

The prosecution’s ‘new evidence’ is inadmissible hearsay, the defense says.

YOUNGSTOWN — Judge John M. Durkin has ordered that a suspect in the slaying of a baby should remain in Mahoning County Jail under $1 million bond while the prosecution appeals to the Ohio Supreme Court the suppression of his confession.

The Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge ruled Tuesday in the case of Terrance Tate, 23, of Hilton Avenue, who awaits trial on an aggravated murder charge.

Tate is charged with what police said was the fatal beating of Javonte Covington on his first birthday in April 2006.

Last Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 7th District Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Judge Durkin’s decision to exclude Tate’s confession from evidence.

Because Tate was in police custody when he made his confession and because he wasn’t warned of his right to remain silent before questioning began, all of Tate’s comments to police must be excluded from evidence in his trial, the appellate judges ruled.

The prosecution is appealing Judge Durkin’s decision, saying the confession is critical to its case.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Martin P. Desmond, assistant county prosecutor, asked Judge Durkin to continue Tate’s confinement because of newly discovered evidence.

Desmond also said Tate, who could face the death penalty, would have no incentive to return to court, if necessary, at a later date if he were to be released.

The new evidence consists of an affidavit from the baby’s father, John Covington of Youngstown, saying Tate’s mother allegedly admitted to Javonte’s aunt that Tate had killed Javonte.

Tate’s lawyer, John B. Juhasz, who sought Tate’s release from jail, told the judge that what the prosecution calls new evidence is “double and maybe triple hearsay” that wouldn’t be admissible in a trial. “It is a sham and an attempt to keep this defendant in jail,” Juhasz said.

Judge Durkin said he’d consider Tate’s mother’s statement only after the Ohio Supreme Court finishes considering the case. Judge Durkin said it’s uncertain whether the state’s top court would agree to hear the case.

Javonte’s grandmother, Acquinetta Jackson of Campbell, said she was “very satisfied” with Judge Durkin’s decision to keep Tate jailed.

Jackson was critical of city police, however, for not properly warning Tate before questioning him. “That’s what got us to this point now where we’re mourning our loss, and it seems like Terrance Tate is trying to get all his rights, but where are my grandson’s rights?,” she said. “It’s just an uphill battle we’re getting ready to face.”

Covington said he was “very pleased” with Judge Durkin’s decision to keep Tate locked up. “I’m real happy to keep him incarcerated until we get further notice of the case and see where we go from here,” he said.

As for the 7th District Court of Appeals decision, Covington said: “I’m kind of mad that they made a decision like that, but it’s actually not their fault,” he said, putting the blame on police who didn’t properly warn Tate.

Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said he believes the Ohio Supreme Court will uphold the confession. “Proper justice will be served from that point,” he said.

Hughes called the officers investigating the Tate case “first-rate investigators,” but said he didn’t want to comment specifically on their handling of the Tate interview because the case is in litigation.

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