VOL. 125 | NO. 130 | Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Judge Disallows Videotaped Confession in Slayings
ADRIAN SAINZ | Associated Press Writer
MEMPHIS (AP) — A judge in the case of a Memphis man accused of killing six people will not allow a videotaped confession that aired on the crime reality show "First 48" to be used at trial.
Judge James Beasley said Tuesday he doesn't feel comfortable allowing the widely seen confession that appeared on the A&E reality program because there may be other information that was recorded, but not aired, which could be important to the case of Jessie Dotson.
"We don't know what's missing," Beasley said. "We don't know if there was exculpatory information that got chopped."
Dotson, 35, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder in one of the worst mass killings in the city's history. Three children survived the March 2008 slayings in a house on Lester Street in Memphis. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Dotson's case has gained national attention partly because of his appearance on "First 48." The program recorded the police investigation and aired a confession from Dotson.
Defense attorney Gerald Skahan said there were hours of recorded interviews with Dotson and witnesses during the police investigation that could raise doubts about Dotson's guilt, but those interviews are no longer available or were destroyed. Skahan said it would be unfair to Dotson to use the confession.
Prosecutor Ray Lepone said he did not intend to use the videotaped confession as primary evidence, but wanted to reserve the right to use the footage to verify or dispute statements made by witnesses at trial.
Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin was present in the courtroom during the arguments. So was Dotson, sitting just behind his attorneys.
After a brief recess, Beasley disallowed any use of the footage at trial.
The judge said he has presided over past cases in which "First 48" was involved, and officers who appeared on the program testified that scenes sometimes were not shown in the order in which they occurred.
"I have a real problem with the fact that we're dealing with an edited, sometimes staged, production," Beasley said. "It may be a reality TV show, but what is reality? Reality is what an editor says it is."
Dotson is accused of killing his brother during an argument, then killing three other adults and two of the brother's children. The adults were shot while the children were beaten and stabbed. Three other young children were critically injured but survived.
The surviving children were hospitalized after the attacks, and police records say one of the survivors identified Dotson as the killer.
Skahan has submitted several motions ahead of Dotson's trial. Beasley already has allowed color crime scene photographs to be used at trial in September.
The case has stirred emotions locally and generated so much publicity that jury selection will take place in Nashville. The jury will be sequestered.
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