Attorneys trying again to bar taped Canter murder confessions from trial
By AMY SMITH
NEWS COURTS REPORTER
Defense attorneys for two men charged with the murder of Brian Canter have launched a second attempt to bar taped confessions from being admitted into evidence at the defendants’ trial.
Lester Joiner Jr. and Robert Lee Williams, who face possible life sentences for the Dec. 6 drowning of an 18-year-old Ypsilanti Township man, have admitted the charge. Both, however, have pinned the blame on the other. The trial was originally scheduled for April 30, but a delay is likely because of psychiatric examinations of the two men as well as legal groundwork still to be covered by defense attorneys.
Judith Wood and John Toomey, representing Joiner, 27, and Williams, 24, respectively, lost their first efforts to disqualify the tapes in January. The confessions were admitted into evidence by a lower court judge following a four-day preliminary examination for the defendants.
Ann Arbor police detectives were called to testify Friday during a six-hour “Walker hearing,” which gives defense attorneys the opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s evidence already admitted.
Wood and Toomey contend that the defendants’ taped statements were obtained illegally by police. The attorneys argue that because counsel had earlier been appointed for Joiner and Williams on an unrelated breaking and entering charge, the police should have respected the defendants’ right to first consult with their attorneys before confessing to a murder.
Nevertheless, assistant Prosecutor David Lady and Ann Arbor police detectives argue that Joiner and Williams knowingly and voluntarily signed statements waiving their rights to an attorney.
On the witness stand, Detective Sgts. William Canada and Thomas Caldwell, and Detective John King stuck by their previous accounts that the defendants turned down the opportunity to speak with attorneys before making a statement.
Under cross examination, Wood and Toomey asked the detectives repeatedly whether they pried information out of the defendants by attempting to turn them against one another in separate interviews. The detectives denied that method of interrogation.
Prior to the hearing, Wood was denied a motion to have Joiner’s trial reassigned to a different judge. Because Joiner had once pleaded guilty to an unrelated felony before Circuit Judge William F. Ager, Wood said a second time before the same judge would deny Joiner his right to a fair trial and sentencing. Ager told Wood she may file another motion requesting Ager to disqualify himself from the case.
Defense attorneys are considering putting Joiner and Williams on the witness stand when the hearing resumes on March 30.