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Killing suspect asks judge to suppress his statements

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YOUNGSTOWN — Attorneys for Akeem M. Hargrove, 30, of Parkcliffe Avenue, who is charged with aggravated murder with a gun specification in the Dec. 22, 2022, shooting death of Devin Bell, 26, at the Shell gas station, 1907 South Ave., are asking for evidence to be suppressed.

Defense attorneys Stanley Booker and Melanie Womer filed the motion with Judge Anthony D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, asking that any statements Hargrove made Dec. 27, 2022, at the Mahoning County jail be suppressed from evidence.

The motion is scheduled for a hearing Jan. 11. Prosecutors have not yet filed a written response to the motion.

Police have said two men wearing all black and ski masks ran from the scene of the 2:24 a.m. shooting and fled down Samuel Avenue. When police arrived, they found Bell in the driver’s seat of a Chevrolet Cruze backed into a parking spot near the entrance to the building.

Windows on the car were shattered, and bullet shell casings were found on the ground nearby, as well as one on the windshield.

Police sent their K-9 dog into the area where the suspects fled, and it led to discovery of a handgun with an “extended magazine” and a knife. Ambulance personnel declared Bell dead at the scene.

The motion states that Hargrove was serving a 10-day sentence in the jail on another offense when jail officials escorted him to a room Dec. 27, 2022, in an effort to question him about Bell’s killing.

Because Hargrove was incarcerated, “he did not have the opportunity to refuse being escorted to the detectives and at no time was free to leave and was subjected to custodial interrogation,” the filing states.

Upon being “escorted to a private room, he was read his Miranda warnings from a piece of paper to which defendant responded ‘what is this about though.’ The officer then removed the document from in front of (Hargrove) and started to interrogate him. At no time during the interrogation did (Hargrove) execute the document in front of him waiving his right and/or knowingly or voluntarily orally (waive) his Miranda rights, including but limited to his right to counsel,” it states.

The filing says prosecutors have “the burden of proving by the preponderance of evidence that a defendant’s waiver of Miranda rights was knowing, intelligent and voluntary.”

The filing cites case law in saying that Hargrove’s waiver of his right not to speak “must have been a ‘free and deliberate choice’ of the accused rather than a product of ‘intimidation, coercion or deception.'”

Furthermore, it “must have been made with with a full awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it” for the evidence obtained to be admissible.

It adds that “Even absent the accused’s invocation of the right to remain silent, the accused’s statement during a custodial interrogation is inadmissible at trial unless the prosecution can establish that the accused ‘in fact knowingly and voluntarily waived (Miranda) rights when making the statement.”

The filing stated, “It is clear from the interview procured from the defendant while incarcerated at the Mahoning County jail on unrelated charges that the defendant did not waive his rights under Miranda.

“The defendant was incarcerated at the time of the interview, was unaware why he was being escorted to a private room with detectives, nor is it … clear if he had any choice whatsoever in being placed in the private room within the jail facility.”

He was not asked if he was waiving his Miranda rights, nor was he asked if he wanted to talk to detectives, it adds.

erunyan@vindy.com

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