KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Jason Dalton made his first public appearance since being dragged out of court months ago for unruly behavior. He returned to the Kalamazoo County Courthouse Thursday morning as his defense attorney, Eusebio Solis, requested that the statements he made to officers in the first hours after he was detained be excused from his upcoming June 13 trail.
"Twenty-five times he says he doesn’t want to speak," said Solis to Judge Alexander C. Lipsey. "Fifteen of those times he’s actually mentions the word the 5th."
Solis said that his client pled the fifth during interviews with detectives from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and Michigan State Police. Det. Bill Moorian testified that he was at home when he got the call to come in to the station and talked to Dalton in the interview room. Dalton had just been arrested for allegedly shooting and killing 6 people — Richard and Tyler Smith, Mary Jo Nye, Mary Lou Nye, Barbara Hawthorne and Judy Brown — and allegedly wounding Tiana Carruthers and Abigail Kopf over several hours on the night of February 20, 2016. Det. Moorian said he began interviewing Dalton around 1 a.m. and that he didn't know too much about what happened. So he read Dalton his Miranda Rights and proceeded to ask questions about the different crimes.
"Our goal was to identify all the crime scenes,"said Det. Moorian. "Try to make sure that there wasn’t additional people that were injured, shot, suffering somewhere where we were not aware."
Solis questioned Det. Moorian about why he had the conversation with Dalton, considering he'd already been interviewed previously though briefly. Det. Moorian he believed there may have been other shooters on the loose. So with the public's safety in mind he continued on with the three-hour conversation.
"Upon each right that I read to the individual I ask him if he understands each individual right," said MSP Det. Kyle Gorham who testified about his conversation with Dalton next. "I actually write down his statements."
Det. Gorham said he spoke with Dalton on February 21, several hours after he'd been arrested. He brought into the interview room a few cokes that he shared with Dalton. They proceeded to talk about God and dogs and how losing a pet is like losing a family member. Solis criticized that he had a hidden agenda, using empathy to try and get his client to confess.
"You’re telling this court that you had nothing better to do on whatever day this was, evening, than to sit in a county jail and have coke with my client?" asked Solis.
Det. Gorham replied "At that point and time, that’s exactly what I was doing."
Solis closed the hearing by saying that Dalton was not interviewed but interrogated, that certain tactics were used to get him to speak about what had occurred. The prosecution disagrees, saying that the detectives kept the public's safety in mind.
"His goal was to get testimonial statements and that's why, as he does in all of his interviews, he followed Miranda so scrupulously," replied asst. prosecutor Jeffery Williams. "You’ll find from the transcripts he went through every single right."
Judge Lipsey decided not to make a decision about Solis' request. He said he will first review the transcripts, logs and tapes regarding the conversations and then release a written opinion by April 20.
"We believe that we have a strong case regardless of the courts decision in this case," said Prosecutor Jeff Getting during a post-hearing press conference. "We have sufficient evidence to establish the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."