Lawyers to argue on use of suspect’s statements

By Peter H. Milliken


Prosecution and defense lawyers will argue in court whether statements to police by Columbus Jones, a suspect in the shooting that killed a Youngstown State University student and wounded 11 other people, will be admissible as evidence in his trial.

The arguments will occur at a 10 a.m. hearing Wednesday before Judge John M. Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Jones’ jury trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 13.

Jones, 23, of Cambridge Avenue, was indicted on a murder charge in the Feb. 6, 2011, death of Jamail Johnson, 11 counts of felonious assault with firearm specifications on all counts, improperly discharging a gun into a habitation and illegal gun possession.

The shootings occurred at an Indiana Avenue house party just north of the university campus. Jones is one of six defendants charged with various offenses related to the incident.

In a memorandum in support of his motion, Jones’ lawyer, Louis M. DeFabio, argued that the statements his client gave to police Feb. 6 and 7, 2011, are inadmissible because they were not voluntarily made and “not preceded by a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver” of his Constitutional right to remain silent.

“Portions of these statements are incriminating,” DeFabio wrote in his motion to exclude from evidence the statements Jones made in the recorded police interviews.

DeFabio said Detective Sgt. Rick Spotleson of the Youngstown Police Department misled Jones when he told him: “You’re not signing anything away,” before Jones signed a waiver of his right to remain silent Feb. 6.

DeFabio made the same complaint about Spotleson’s remark to Jones before he gave a statement the following day. Spotleson then said: “All you’re doing is signing that you understand what it’s about,” DeFabio reported.

“The waiver of rights occurs when questions are asked and answered, not when a form is signed,” countered Rebecca L. Doherty, chief of the criminal division in the county prosecutor’s office.

“Defendant clearly understood that he did not have to speak to Detective Spotleson, and that, by signing the form, he was affirming his knowledge. Defendant was not threatened, tricked, coerced or cajoled into a waiver of will,” Doherty added.

Attached to Doherty’s response to the motion were the waiver forms Jones signed at the beginning of each interrogation session at the city police department.

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