In TV and movies, we've all heard the speech police are supposed to give suspects when they are placed under arrest. The so-called Miranda rights include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and include a version of the phrase, "anything you say or do can and will be used against your in a court of law." However, it may not be so clear what the court considers to be the right to remain silent, which became an issue in the case of a teenager accused of raping and killing a Danvers high school math teacher.
Philip Chism is facing charges for raping and killing 24-year-old Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer. Chism was only 14-years-old at the time of the alleged crime. According to police, they have video evidence from the October 22, 2013 event. The video allegedly shows Ritzer walking into a school bathroom, and Chism following her in wearing gloves and a hood. Chism then walks out of the bathroom alone, and is later shown pulling a recycling barrel through the school, and then dragging it outside.
According to authorities, Ritzer's body was found in nearby woods, her throat cut and naked from the waist down. There was a note which read "I hate you all." A recycling bin with blood in and on it was also found nearby. She had no ID, credit cards or phone found with her.
Now 16, Chism has pleaded not guilty to the crime. In pre-trial hearings, the prosecutor and defense have been busy fighting it out over what evidence will be allowed at trial. Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy has issued a 48-page decision on the defense lawyer's motions to suppress key evidence. Part of that key evidence includes the admissions Chism made to Topsfield and Danvers police.
Topsfield police found Chism walking along the highway, and eventually took him into custody. He had allegedly used Ritzer's credit card to buy food and a ticket to a movie at a local mall. Chism apparently had no problem talking to Topsfield police, answering their questions. However, things changed when he was taken to the Danvers police station. Chism's defense lawyer argued that the police coerced the teen to waive his rights in speaking to the police.
According to Judge Lowy, when Chism was taken to the police station, and his mother was also present, he no longer wanted to talk to the police. Lowy said that it was clear that Chism wanted to talk to the police without his mother present, and that he had no intention of talking to the police while his mother was in the room. This made a difference in which admissions would be admissible in court. Therefore, Chisms statements to Topsfield police could be used as evidence, but the taped confession at the Danvers police station could not be used.
Prosecutors argued that the admission should be allowed because Chism and his mother never demanded an attorney, and have indicated they are still reviewing the judges decision. However, the decision has also included allowing several other key pieces of evidence. This includes items gathered from Danvers High School, and several items taken from Chism which include the teacher's ID card, credit cards, a bloodied box cutter, and pair of women's underwear. The trial is scheduled for October.