Statements in Lunsford girl’s killing thrown out

/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge ruled Monday that statements allegedly made to detectives by the man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford will not be allowed at his trial.

Circuit Judge Ric Howard said Orlando police detectives should not have been allowed to question John Evander Couey about a 1985 murder case because he had already told Citrus County authorities he wanted a lawyer.

A taped confession to Jessica’s slaying was thrown out in June for the same reason.

Couey has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, sexual battery on a child, kidnapping and burglary in Jessica’s death. Authorities found the girl’s body in March 2005 after Couey told them where to look near her Homosassa home in central Florida. She had been missing for about a month.

The statements Howard ruled on Monday involve unrecorded comments Couey allegedly gave to Orlando police after he was arrested in March 2005. They asked Couey about the unsolved 1985 murder of 15-year-old Regina Armstrong because he had grown up near Orlando.

Orlando police Detective Joel Wright testified Friday that Couey told him: “I wish I could help you, but I can’t ... If I did it, I would tell you, they can only kill me once.”

The judge agreed with Assistant Public Defender Dan Lewan that the questioning violated Couey’s right to an attorney and his right to remain silent.

Jury selection is set to begin Feb. 12 for his trial in Miami.

Prosecutors have said they are confident the physical evidence is enough to convict Couey and secure a death sentence.