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Expert Says Suspect Coerced

A psychology professor says accused killer Wayne Adam Ford could not 'think clearly' when he confessed to the killings of four women.

November 21, 2003|Hugo Martin | Times Staff Writer

An accused serial killer had a "compromised state of mind" when he surrendered to authorities and revealed a severed breast he allegedly removed from one of his victims, a psychology professor testified Thursday in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

The testimony came during a hearing before Judge Michael Smith, who must decide whether a jury in the murder trial of Wayne Adam Ford can hear the confessions he made to investigators after he walked into a Humboldt County sheriff's station in 1998.

Ford, a 42-year-old truck driver, is accused of killing four women in Humboldt, Kern, San Joaquin and San Bernardino counties. Under a new state law, all four murder cases have been consolidated and will be tried in San Bernardino. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Ford's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Joe Canty, has argued that most of the statements Ford made to investigators were illegally obtained because he was not allowed to see an attorney.

Prosecutors have argued that the interrogation of Ford ended as soon as he requested an attorney. But they say that Ford eventually signed a document waiving his rights to an attorney.

During testimony, Deborah Davis, a psychology professor from the University of Nevada in Reno, said she read the transcripts of Ford's interviews and concluded that he was fatigued, confused and coerced by investigators.

"Everything he said was consistent with him not being able to think clearly," she said. Davis, an expert on police interrogation tactics testifying for the defense, said that investigators often force suspects to talk by exploiting their anxieties, guilt and emotional vulnerability.

San Bernardino County Deputy Dist. Atty. David Whitney pointed out that Davis never interviewed Ford and did not listen to the audiotapes of his interviews.

The hearing is crucial to prosecutors because a favorable ruling on Canty's motion could bar prosecutors from using much of the evidence investigators uncovered after the interviews with Ford.

Outside court, Whitney said Ford spoke freely to several investigators before he asked for an attorney. Once he made that request, Whitney said, the interrogations stopped. It was only after Ford spoke with his brother and decided to waive his rights that the interrogations resumed, Whitney said.

But Canty said Thursday that Ford was too fatigued, emotionally depressed and upset to responsibly waive his rights.

Smith is expected to rule on the matter by Dec. 12. Depending on his ruling, a jury could be picked as early as March.

The bodies of the four women allegedly killed by Ford were discovered between October 1997 and October 1998.

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