NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Watch what you say on the phone and to your cellmates.
That’s what the attorney for William Broyles told him during his first appearance on Thursday morning.
The advice was an apparent attempt to keep Broyles from saying anything incriminating as he awaits trial after being accused of killing his wife and two adult children in Nassau County on Wednesday.
Broyles’ attorney told him to only speak about the case with him and his colleagues in the public defender’s office.
“Mr. Boyles, do not use the telephone to talk about this case,” his attorney said. “The only individuals you are to talk to, our office, our investigator and our felony attorneys who will be out to see you. The phones are recorded, your cellmates are recording you. You are not to be discussing the facts of this case. This is to protect your rights. Do you understand this?”
“Yes, sir,” Broyles responded.
The trial of Russell Tillis is the most recent example of an incriminating jailhouse confession coming into play in a high-profile murder case.
Tillis confided in his cellmate that he had a history of picking up girls assaulting them, even mentioning a “little blonde.” But his fellow inmate was wearing a wire and that confession ultimately helped prosecutors get a guilty verdict in the murder case.
In the murder case of Michael Haim, two inmates testified he confessed to killing his wife while he was in jail with them in 2015. He was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
“It can become valuable, because they may have a conscience once they get behind bars and begin to talk or regurgitate exactly what happened more so than what the police may or may not know,” News4JAX crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said. “So that information that that inmate is divulging could be very, very valuable value in a court of law.”
Jefferson said most attorneys warn their clients of this because putting wires on inmates happens often.
“It’s a common practice that’s done when it is needed, not everybody that goes in. Let’s just take this case, for instance. You’ve got multiple deaths at the hands of one person. There may be some more information that prosecutors need to try to help them with this particular case,” Jefferson said.
But sometimes the jailhouse admissions confessions can get tricky.
In the ongoing Kimberly Kessler murder trial, inmates were listed as witnesses against Kessler but the judge threw out their testimony as hearsay.
“If it was done the right way and more than likely be used in a court of law against that person. But if they haphazardly do it, the person that is relaying the information is not a credible person and not a credible witness, that can be thrown out, and I have seen that happen,” Jefferson said.
In the case of William Broyles, the damage may already be done.
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said Wednesday Broyles is the one who called 911 to report the shooting and he then told deputies he shot each victim multiple times, just to make sure they didn’t suffer.
Broyles’ is being held on no bond and his next court date is set for Dec. 21.