Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Prosecutors say jailhouse snitches won't be called to testify in Joe Cool case"

That's the headline from Vanessa Blum's article discussing the government's filing today. It makes sense not to call these guys, who would just muddy the case up for the government. Smart move.

From Blum's article:

Two jailhouse snitches who say they heard incriminating statements from a suspect in the Joe Cool murder-at-sea case won't be called to testify at trial, federal prosecutors stated in a motion filed Monday evening.Their announcement came after attorneys for Guillermo Zarabozo sought to have the so-called confession thrown out, claiming it violated Zarabozo's constitutional right to be represented by an attorney during questioning.U.S. District Judge Paul Huck set a hearing for Wednesday to discuss the government's filing. Huck canceled a hearing where the inmates, Antwan Hall and Daniel Noel, were expected to testify about the circumstances of their conversations with Zarabozo in Miami's Federal Detention Center.Zarabozo, 20, of Hialeah and Kirby Archer, 36, of Strawberry, Ark. are charged with murdering Joe Cool captain Jake Branam, 27; his wife, Kelley Branam, 30; his half brother, Scott Gamble, 35; and first-mate Samuel Kairy, 27 on Sept. 22.


But the confession posed problems for prosecutors. First, it could not be used against Archer, meaning the government would be forced to try the two defendants separately if it came in as evidence. Secondly, the inmates would have obvious credibility problems as witnesses, because they are convicted felons seeking sentence reductions.Most urgently, Zarabozo's lawyers wanted Huck to rule on claims the confession violated Zarabozo's right to counsel. In a motion filed last week, defense lawyers said prosecutors knew Hall and Noel were government snitches and intentionally placed the men next to Zarabozo to illicit a confession.Federal judges have ruled that informants who have pre-existing agreements to gather information for prosecutors may be considered government agents. That would make a jailhouse interrogation illegal unless the suspect's lawyer was present.Prosecutors disputed that was the case, saying the government had "no agreement or prearrangement" with the men to seek a confession from Zarabozo.Still, prosecutors agreed not to use the confession unless Zarabozo took the stand at trial and told a different story.The men's trial is currently set for early June but could be pushed back if the government opts to seek the death penalty.

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