Judge rules police violated murder suspect’s rights, statements suppressed
Incriminating statements allegedly made by a man charged in a drug-related murder in Steele County will not be used against him because a district court judge has ruled that they were generated from police misconduct.
In a 30-page ruling issued on May 31, Judge Joseph Bueltel ruled that police investigators violated Gerald Blevins’ constitutional rights by not allowing him the right to counsel. Specifically, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Dave Schafer did not stop questioning Blevins when he asked to have an attorney present. Schafer kept going with the interview for about an hour with Blevins requesting an attorney.
Bueltel went as far to say in his ruling that the police misconduct was flagrant. “Agent Schafer flagrantly violated Blevins’ right to counsel in order to continue the interview,” the judge wrote.
The suppression of Blevins’ statements to police comes as great news for his public defender Lauri Traub. “I was disturbed by the conduct of the BCA agent and the prosecutor,” Traub said, noting that Blevins asked three times for an attorney, but wasn’t allowed to have one. “I have friends in law enforcement who are disturbed by this conduct,” she added.
Prosecutors tried to convince the judge that Blevins was asking to speak to a prosecutor and not his own attorney. At one point during the interrogation, the BCA investigator brought in Steele County Attorney Daniel McIntosh to discuss Blevins’ concern for his safety in this case.
“This is absurd,” Bueltel wrote in his ruling. “The meaning of that exchange (requesting an attorney) is clear, unambiguous and routine. Blevins was willing to speak further to authorities, if he were represented by his own lawyer.”