Attorneys argue key statement made by girl accused of abandoning baby shouldn’t count

By Gary Scott on June 25, 2015 at 1:07pm

After several months of inactivity, the court case involving a 17-year-old Jacksonville girl accused of leaving her newborn child in a dumpster picked up again this morning.

The case resumed in Morgan County Court with a hearing for a motion by the girl’s attorney, Anne Clough, to rule statements the girl made to a Jacksonville police detective late last year as inadmissible.

The 17-year-old, who is charged with attempted murder, admitted the abandoned baby was hers, and that she placed the child in the dumpster, and then stood there for about five minutes, with the baby crying, before leaving, according to testimony provided in November by JPD Detective Scott Erthal.

The girl was arrested on September 4th, less than a week after the incident. Erthal and fellow detective Brad Rogers went to the Madison County Detention Center on September 6th to interview her.

Among the problems pointed out by Clough and Elliott Turpin, the attorney of the mother of the 17-year-old, were a lack of recording of the interview, a lack of consent from the girl’s mother, and direct participation in the interrogation by Rogers, which they claimed was improper because he was a juvenile officer.

While Erthal said he talked to the girl’s mother about going to Edwardsville to interview the 17-year-old, he added that he did not get written consent from the mother, and when she was called to testify, she stated that she did not authorize the interview unless she was present, which she was not.

Erthal said the girl was advised of her Miranda Rights, while Rogers added he believed the girl understood what was happening. Rogers also told Clough that the parent only has to be notified that the interview would happen, and was not required to be there.

Erthal and Rogers both stated the interview was not recorded because there was no device available. Turpin pointed out that non-recorded statements in juvenile cases involving murder or attempted murder are inadmissible, based on case law, and Rogers said he “certainly likes all interview to be recorded.”

Although Clough questioned how trustworthy the statements reportedly made by the girl were without the recording, Assistant State’s Attorney Chad Turner doubted the officers would perjure themselves in a case like this.

Rogers testified that he talked to Erthal, the lead investigator in the case, during a break in the interview with the girl and advised Erthal to continue asking questions. He also testified that he had done other work on the case, all of which attorneys argued was improper.

In his original November testimony, Erthal testified that the girl had previously talked to detectives before the September 6th interview, and said she gave birth to the boy at her residence and thought the child was dead before deciding to put it in the dumpster.

She reportedly admitted she knew it was alive during the September 6th questioning.

Associate Judge Jeffery Tobin will accept written arguments with previous cases supporting them from Turner and the attorneys representing the girl and her mother at a date yet to be determined. A pre-trial date for the attempted murder case is set for August 6th.