Judge ruling: Prosecution can use statements murder suspect made to DHS
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
The defense team for a Florissant man accused of brutally killing his former girlfriend and fiancée suffered another key setback late last week.
Two weeks ago, Patrick Frazee of Florissant, suspected of murdering a missing Woodland Park woman, Kelsey Berreth, appeared in court for a motion hearing. During the hearing, the defense sought to suppress statements Frazee gave to a Department of Human Services (DHS) agent while incarcerated.
District Judge Scott Sells heard both sides of the argument during a several hour hearing and said that he would issue a written decision. Last Friday, the judge released his decision on this matter. The judge used previous court cases to provide information regarding why he opted to side with the prosecution on the motion in question.
The defense argued that since Frazee was in custody and the questions he was asked were related to the crime he committed that the DHS agent, Mary Longmire, was acting as a law enforcement agent. According to law, any law enforcement agent must read a defendant their Miranda rights before questioning them so that they know anything they say can be used against them in the court of law.
The prosecution team, led by District Attorney Dan May, disagreed and said that Longmire was not acting as a law enforcement agent as she was simply doing her job as a DHS representative by interviewing Frazee in order to find the best home for the 14-month child Frazee and Berreth shared.
The prosecutors claimed that since Longmire is not a law enforcement agent, she was not required to read Frazee his Miranda rights. They also said that Frazee was instructed that he did not have to answer the questions he was asked, and that he could have left the room at any time.
After hearing both sides and researching similar past court cases, the judge decided that Frazee’s statements given to DHS can be used as evidence during his murder trial. “Ms. Longmire had no legal duty to give the defendant a Miranda advisement or warning because she is not a police officer,” Judge Sells said in the ruling. “Defendant was in jail but no custodial interrogation took place.”
The judge then brought up two previous court cases (People v. Denison and Cervantes v. Walker) to justify his decision. “The meeting was voluntary,” the judge continued to say in the written statement.
“When I consider the totality of the circumstances, I find no threats, limits of movement, harsh words, confrontation of evidence of guilt, or any other factor mentioned in the Cervantes and Denison cases that would indicate any type of Miranda warning was required or to find any constitutional violation. Defendant’s motion to suppress is denied,” he added.
It is unclear exactly what Frazee said to Longmire during the meeting, but it is known that she asked him questions relating to the time around last Thanksgiving when Berreth was last seen.
According to earlier reports, the DHS official questioned Frazee about his relationship with Berreth. With this ruling, all of the statements he gave to Longmire during their interview can be used by the prosecution team during the upcoming first-degree murder trial. If convicted, Frazee faces life behind bars with no chance of parole. His trial, which will be held in Cripple Creek, is slated to begin in late October.