Attorneys move to suppress evidence against Cristian Fernandez
13-year-old boy awaiting trials on murder, sexual assault charges
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Defense attorneys and prosecutors in the cases of 13-year-old murder suspect Cristian Fernandez have filed two motions to suppress evidence.
Attorneys said they want to redact some confidential info in the exhibits and not have them be public records in the boy's murder and sexual assault cases.
Lead attorney Hank Coxe told the judge she should throw out statements Fernandez made to investigators when he was questioned about both of the alleged crimes and keep them away from the jury should either case go to trial. The teen's attorneys argue the then-12-year-old was interrogated without fully understanding what was happening.
Fernandez is accused of beating his 2-year-old half brother to death.
In the case of the sexual assault, Coxe said the police did not notify his parents, a guardian or his lawyer that he was being questioned.
"They want to make sure that any statement Cristian Fernandez made was lawfully obtained," Channel 4 legal analyst Ed Birk said. "And if it wasn't, they want it out of evidence, and we have to assume they made this motion that there may be something in there that could harm this case."
Birk said although Fernandez appears to have agreed to talk to investigators, the defense argues he didn't really know what he was getting into and what he was entitled to. What Fernandez said in the interrogations has not been released to the public, but Birk said it's apparent his lawyers believe it may harm their case.
"The core issue is did a 12-year-old boy accused of sexual assault and murder -- did he understand what he was saying when he waived his right to remain silent?" Birk said.
Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson said he was disturbed by what he saw in the interrogation video, and police need to be very careful when interviewing children.
"She asked him if he wanted to talk about it and he said, 'What?'" Jefferson said of the detective who interviewed the boy. "That in and of itself shows he's not competent enough to understand what was going on, did not know he could ask for an attorney, a parent or guardian to be in there with him."
The judge agreed she would receive the motions with the redactions and would review them to determine if the evidence should be sealed. She has until the end of the month to make a decision.
At motion hearing Wednesday, the judge denied a motion by media lawyers to release a 69-page deposition given by a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detective.
Fernandez' new lawyers will re-depose that detective.
Their motion for the second deposition claimed the detective wasn't prepared for it, and the former defense lawyer who took it didn't ask the right questions.
The judge said the new lawyers could re-depose the detective, but her first deposition will remain sealed.
The judge also modified the procedures under which case documents will be reviewed for release to the media.
Fernandez' first trial in the sexual assault case of his 5-year-old half brother is scheduled to start next month.
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