Psychiatrist, detective testify at hearing
Hearing continues to suppress evidence against 13-year-old murder suspect
A child psychiatrist testified Friday that Cristian Fernandez did not understand what he was doing when he gave up his Miranda rights during his two interrogations.
The defense called the high-profiled psychiatrist to the stand in the second day of the suppression hearing, the outcome of which will be critical to the trials coming up for the youngest murder suspect in Duval County history.
If Judge Mallory Cooper rules the 13-year-old's statements to police are not valid, prosecutors will have a much tougher time proving the boy killed his 2-year-old half brother and molested another half brother last year.
The interrogation video of a detective questioning Fernandez after his arrest was played during Friday's hearing. In the video, the boy, then 12, looks around the police interrogation room, yawns and rubs his eyes. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Detective Lisa Perez walks in and gives him his rights.
The defense cross-examined Perez, who interviewed Fernandez in the sexual abuse case. The boy's attorneys are trying to prove he did not fully understand what he was doing when he gave up his Miranda rights. The defense said Perez only spent 47 seconds explaining his rights to him and didn't ask him if he wanted a parent or attorney present.
"In spite of the Florida statute, and more specifically the sheriff's policy, you made no effort who his custodian was or contact anyone?" a defense attorney asked Perez.
"I did not," the detective said.
Prosecutor Mark Caliel made the point that Perez did exactly what she was supposed to do and followed JSO protocol. She said Fernandez never asked for a parent or guardian to be present and never gave her the impression that he did not understand what she was telling him about his rights.
"Could you describe to me the tone and manner in which you spoke to him?" an attorney asked the detective.
"I spoke to him like a mother speaking to a child -- very soft," Perez said.
The key testimony during the second day of the suppression hearing was child psychiatrist Dr. David Fassler's. He talked about Fernandez's inability to comprehend what he signed.
"My opinion is, at the time of those two interrogations, Cristian, as a 12-year old, given the totality of the circumstances and his background, was not able to fully comprehend, understand, interpret the Miranda warnings or realize or appreciate the consequences of the decisions he was making on those two occasions," Fassler said.
The suppression hearing is expected to conclude Monday.
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