Attorneys say their client was coerced
Attorneys for a 29-year-old Ceylon man charged with murder put their client on the stand in an effort to get some evidence and statements in his case thrown out.
Brian Daniel Freeman faces 11 felony counts, including two first-degree murder charges in the early-morning death of 37-year-old Christopher Fulmer of Blue Earth on Feb. 20.
He also is accused of severly injuring his wife, Candice, and her two teenage daughters.
Freeman allegedly broke into Fulmer’s house and attacked him and the three females with a hammer, causing head injuries to all of them.
At the start of Wednesday’s omnibus hearing, Freeman’s attorney Scott Cutcher told Judge Douglas Richards the defense will make four legal challenges:
seizure of Freeman’s pickup truck from the parking lot at United Hospital in Blue Earth;
statements Freeman made at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester and the Law Enforcement Center in Blue Earth;
seizure of clothing while Freeman was at his house in Ceylon;
and, grand jury testimony.
“It was coercion, just by the very nature of a law officer’s job,” Cutcher said following the two-hour hearing.
“Mr. Freeman’s rights were violated. They didn’t have search warrants,” he added.
During the hearing, Faribault County Attorney Troy Timmerman and assistant County Attorney Lamar Piper attempted to show evidence in the case was collected legally.
Prosecutors relied on testimony from Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents Michael Anderson and Drew Evans, and Sheriff Mike Gormley.
Cutcher questioned the investigators on whether his client was advised of his Miranda rights, when Freeman was free to go or was detained. He also wanted to know what evidence Freeman gave authorities before being advised of his rights and if the interviews were done legally.
When Freeman took the stand, defense attorney Carrie Leone told her client that questioning would focus on “interrogations” conducted by authorities.
Anderson and Gormley interviewed Freeman several times, first at United Hospital in Blue Earth, at his house in Ceylon, the family room at St. Marys Hospital and the Law Enforcement Center in Blue Earth after he was arrested.
Leone asks Freeman whether he believed he was free to leave while officers were questioning him.
When he returns from St. Marys later in the morning on Feb. 20, Freeman was questioned by Anderson and Gormley.
Leone asked him if he thought he could have left the parking lot because of the way officers had parked their vehicles next to his pickup.
“No,” Freeman says.
Authorities searched Freeman’s vehicle with his consent and decided to have it impounded.
Freeman says he felt he had no choice of signing a consent form already filled out by authorities.
Freeman says he and authorities discussed whether he could keep his truck.
“Do you feel you were voluntarily turning over the truck?” asked Leone.
“No,” Freeman replied.
While in Ceylon, authorities took clothing belonging to Freeman they say had blood on them.
He says officers were given the clothing and allowed to walk though his house because, “I didn’t want to be seen as a suspect. I didn’t feel I could say no.”
Freeman says officers did not get his mother’s permission to search her vehicle, which he rode in to Ceylon and Rochester.
While at St. Marys, Freeman stayed in a family room at the hospital.
Freeman says he didn’t think he could leave because there were two armed security guards outside the room nearby.
Anderson and Gormley questioned Freeman while at St. Marys, taking a break a half hour into the interview.
Freeman says after a brief break, the officers read him his Miranda rights.
“The stories he had given us weren’t accurate. I knew it would be an interrogation and we would confront him hard,” says Anderson.
Freeman admitted he was responsible for the attacks, he says he “lost it” and had gaps in his memory, says Anderson.
According to authorities, Freeman claims the females were injured when they got caught in the “crossfire” when he attacked Fulmer.
At the end of questioning, Freeman was arrested and allowed to sit down, not handcuffed.
“I turned down the lights and he went to sleep,” Gormley says.
Under cross-examination of Freeman, Timmerman referred to Leone’s use of “interrogation” to describe interviews conducted by authorities.
“They were all pretty cordial, weren’t they? Did you feel that you were having conversations or being interrogated?” Timmerman asked Freeman.
“For the most part, conversations,” says Freeman.
Timmerman points out the family room was for the comfort of the families of patients at St. Marys.
“You didn’t ask to leave. You didn’t have any place to go. The officers were leaving you in your room” he says.
Timmerman read a portion of a transcript of the interview conducted at St. Marys.
“This is the truth?” Anderson asks.
“Yes,” replies Freeman.
“Made of your own free will?” asks Anderson.
“Yes, being honest as much as I can,” Freeman replies.
Timmerman asks Freeman, “They didn’t make you say that?”
“No, they did not,” says Freeman.
Richards gave defense attorneys until Aug. 24 to submit written arguments and the prosecution two weeks to issue a rebuttal.
Richards will decide after Sept. 7 what evidence will be allowed at the trial.