Police violated the rights of a man charged in the death of a Little Rock, Arkansas, anchorwoman by interviewing him twice without his lawyer present, defense attorneys said in a motion.
The motion requests a judge bar police from “interviewing, interrogating or otherwise communicating with” Curtis Lavell Vance. In their response, however, prosecutors note that Vance initiated both interviews with police and waived his right to have an attorney present. A hearing is scheduled Tuesday on the issue, according to the Pulaski County court clerk’s office. Vance, 28, is charged with capital murder, rape, residential burglary and theft in the death of Anne Pressly. Pressly, 26, was found unconscious in her home October 20 and died five days later at a hospital. She was the morning news anchor for KATV, a CNN affiliate. Authorities have said Vance is linked to Pressly’s death through DNA testing. Little Rock Police spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings and prosecutor John Johnson declined comment to CNN Monday, citing a gag order imposed in the case. However, in Johnson’s response to the motion, he notes Vance initiated both of the interviews. In the defense motion filed earlier this month, Vance’s public defenders wrote they notified the court in December that he intended to assert his right to remain silent and communicate only through his counsel. A judge issued an order directing that police provide sufficient notice to defense counsel before transporting Vance. However, the defense alleges Little Rock Police transported Vance to a police station and interviewed him without notifying them in December and again in February.
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In December, the attorneys said they were notified by jail staff that Vance had been taken for a police interview. They went to the jail and waited at the inmate entrance in hopes of seeing him as he arrived but police “deviated from normal practice and took him through an entrance on the opposite side of the building from that which is ordinarily used, thereby avoiding the possibility that Mr. Vance would see his attorneys.” They said in December, police did not allow them to speak with Vance. In February, they claim in the motion, Vance was not notified of their request to speak with him during the police interview. Although police claim that both of the interviews were initiated by Vance, “the detectives’ lack of candor with Mr. Vance during the interviews violates his Sixth Amendment right to counsel,” the defense motion said. “LRPD detectives have engaged in subterfuge and have violated both the meaning and the express language of a standing court order in their successful attempts to interrogate Mr. Vance outside the presence of counsel.” But, prosecutors point out in their response, a defendant is allowed to initiate contact with authorities, even if represented by counsel. “The only issue here is whether the defendant waived his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by initiating contact with the police, and clearly he did,” Johnson wrote. They also said defense attorneys were notified in December that Vance was being transported from the jail — by the jail staff. And in February, they said, police could not have violated the district court order in the case because the district court lost jurisdiction over the case when it was filed in circuit court — as spelled out in the order itself. Prosecutors also note that despite requests by the defense to speak to Vance, “As counsel knows … law enforcement is under no obligation to allow an attorney access to their client under these circumstances unless the defendant asks for the attorney.” Vance’s trial has been set for September 9, according to court documents.