Confession in empty interrogation room is recorded, likely key to murder conviction

August 17, 2012

After offering little police could use in 10 hours of interviews, one sentence a 76-year-old man said to what he thought was just himself ended up playing a major role in his murder conviction last week. John Clark Smith Jr. dodged the questions of detectives and kept his cards close to the vest during hours of interrogation, but when police walked out of the room, Smith said to himself, "Uh, yeah, I killed her." That statement was recorded and played to a Jacksonville jury last week, which ended up convicting Smith of second-degree murder for shooting his niece with a shotgun in 2008, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Smith faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced next month, the newspaper reported.

There was not a ton of evidence against Smith in the case police said was an argument over money. Two of the people on the property at the time say they did not see Smith with a shotgun, nor did they see the one shot that was fired. It ended up being Smith's own recorded words that likely did him in. The case is a cautionary tale and a reminder that anything anyone says while in police custody indeed can, and will, be used against you in a court of law - as the saying goes. When police are interviewing someone - always assume that everything is being recorded. Always. One tactic police often use is they'll leave the room for an hour, even longer and just let the suspect sit in their own silence to think about what is going on. Sometimes, the defendant will say something - as Smith did. In other cases, they will break down in tears or lash out in anger. In yet other cases, the silence and wait will soften up the suspect enough that they will spill their guts when police walk back in the room. Nothing police do in these circumstances is done without a purpose and an end goal in mind. Detectives will often try to buddy up with a person in those rooms, bringing them something to eat or drink and talking to them like they are the suspect's friend. The officer is not your friend, he or she is doing their job to get you to talk and will do so by any means necessary.

There is one way for you to end the discussions. Ask for an criminal defense attorney. Once a suspect does that, police are not allowed to ask any more questions. A Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will discuss your case with you and will be present during any discussion with detectives, if you decide to continue to speak with police. Never talk to police on your own - even to what you think is an empty room.

If you or a loved one is being investigated for a crime and needs a Jacksonville Gun Crime Attorney, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Defense Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.