Suspect seeks to nullify confession, murder count


POSTED: Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Accused killer Vernon P. Bartley is asking a state judge to throw out his confession because he says police officers violated his constitutional rights in obtaining it. He also wants a first-degree murder charge dismissed because the victim was a potential witness against him in a Family Court proceeding—not a criminal prosecution as specified by law.

Bartley, 17, is awaiting trial for the May 25, 2007, rape and murder of his neighbor, 51-year-old Karen Ertell. Ertell was scheduled to testify against Bartley in state Family Court in a burglary of her Ewa Beach home. Bartley was 15 at the time.

When police interviewed Bartley two days after Ertell was killed, Detective Theodore Coons testified at a hearing yesterday that he was surprised Bartley was willing to make a statement.

“;My partner and I didn't expect it. It's a heinous crime. I didn't think anyone would talk about it,”; Coons said.

The only other person present during the interview was Bartley's mother, Coons said.

;[Preview]  Bartley Tries To Get Confession Tossed

A rule on Vernon Bartley's motions will be made on a later date after he tried to get his confession thrown out today.

Watch ]


Bartley's lawyer, Jeffrey Hawk, said Bartley gave police a confession because he did not understand his constitutional rights to a lawyer and to remain silent. He said Bartley was born in American Samoa and that his first language in Samoan, not English. And he said Bartley had just an eighth-grade education at the time.

When Bartley asked Coons why he needed an attorney, Hawk said, Coons stonewalled him.

“;You know at that point when he's asking that question that there's a good chance that if there's an attorney there present that he's going to tell Vernon not to talk about this case,”; Hawk said.

Coons said his response to Bartley was that it was his constitutional right to have an attorney.

Bartley is also asking Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall to dismiss the most serious charge against him, murder in the first degree, which carries a mandatory life prison term without the possibility of parole.

According to state law, a person commits first-degree murder by intentionally or knowingly causing the death of a person known by the defendant to be a witness in a criminal prosecution.

Hawk says Family Court proceedings are not criminal prosecutions.

Other charges Bartley faces are second-degree murder, second-degree sexual assault, second-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, unauthorized computer access, driving a stolen car, identity theft, credit card theft and credit card fraud.

Crandall said she will rule later on both requests.

Police said Bartley confessed to strangling Ertell in her garage, dragging her body inside her home and driving off in her car. Police said Bartley also sexually assaulted Ertell, used her computer to access pornography, stole her wallet and tried to use her credit card to get cash from an automated teller machine.