The mental state of serial-killing suspect Anthony Sowell is being scrutinized before his trial, which is set to begin next month.
His lawyers want a judge to withhold more than 10 hours of statements Sowell made to police following his arrest. They included comments about hearing voices and blacking out and were not voluntarily made, the lawyers say.
But prosecutors contend the statements should be withheld only if they were made under police coercion, which prosecutors say did not occur in Sowell’s case.
Sowell, 50, is accused of killing 11 women whose remains were found at his house on Imperial Avenue in Cleveland. His trial is scheduled for Sept. 7. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
He was arrested on Oct. 31, two days after police, who arrived to arrest him on rape charges, found the bodies of two women on the third floor of his home. Sowell was interviewed that day and again on Nov. 1 and 2 by detectives from the Cleveland police homicide and sex crimes units.
At various points during the police interrogation, Sowell talks about hearing voices “that told him not to enter the room with the bodies, blacking out and then coming to and not remembering what happened in the meantime,” his attorneys Rufus Sims and John Parker say in a court motion.
Sowell also talks of “having a breakdown, talks of confusing dreams from reality, that he suffered from depression, that he remembered meeting some of the women then waking up and they were gone, describes being in a fog,” his lawyers said.
Sims and Parker want Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose to listen to all the interrogations and wait until experts complete an investigation of Sowell’s mental health before ruling on whether the recordings can be admitted as evidence in the trial. Ambrose listened to snippets of the tapes in a hearing in his chambers on July 21.
Assistant County Prosecutors Richard Bombik and Pinkey Carr say the statements should be admitted in trial.
“His only mention of voices, blackout, depression or any other mental health indicator comes from his feeble responses to explain why there were dead bodies in his house and back yard,” they wrote in response to Sims’ and Parker’s request to the judge. “How one interprets his lame explanation is of no consequence unless there is at first a finding that the police engaged in coercive tactics in eliciting a waiver of his Miranda rights.”
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Article courtesy cleveland.com