Should a Jury Be Allowed to Hear Questionable Testimony by a Defendant?
To be sure, the circumstances surrounding the case of Jorge Barahona are cringe-worthy. That said, should a jury be able to hear the statements he gave police when he was heavily medicated and not thinking clearly?
In early 2011, Barahona was arrested in Palm Beach County after his pest control truck was found on the side of I-95; next to the truck, he was found unconscious, his daughter’s dead body was found wrapped in plastic, and his adopted son was found convulsing, allegedly caused by the ingestion of harmful checmicals.
As our criminal defense lawyers know, when police visited Barahona in the hospital to ask him questions about the alleged crimes, he waived his right to an attorney and gave statements to the police. Here’s the problem: he had just been brought out of a coma and was not thinking properly, a result of the fact that he was being heavily medicated at the time.
The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that defendants shall be provided a right against self-incrimination; in other words, someone on trial for a crime does not have to testify against him or herself. This principle has been accepted to mean that testimony provided by a defendant in improper or illegitimate circumstances should not be shown to a jury, as it would be a form of the self-incrimination on the part of the defendant.
In the Barahona case, his defense lawyer argued that the testimony he gave to police at the side of his hospital bed should absolutely not be allowed in the courtroom when the case goes to trial. According to them, his decision to waive his right to speak with an attorney and the content of his testimony were heavily influenced by his lack of complete awareness; he had just been removed from a coma and was still heavily medicated. As such, he was not of sound mind to make the decision to waive his right or to speak to facts of the case.
Unfortunately, the judge disagreed, claiming that the fact that Barahona waived his right was enough to show that he was “intelligent” in making his statements, and that his mental capabilities were not impaired.
Our criminal defense lawyers know that being medicated, and certainly just arising from a coma, can have a huge effect on how you answer questions and how you think about the consequences of your acitons. Would you trust the statements given by someone who was on a great many controlled substances? Probably not. Why, then, is the judge in this case allowing the testimony given by the then-medically-drugged Barahona to be played before a jury when this case goes to trial?
The fact that Barahona has been accused of such heinous crimes probbaly has something to do with it. The fact is, though, that the law should be objective; while he may face charges stemming from disgusting circumstances, he is deserving of the rights afforded him under the U.S. Constitution.
Our experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert fight hard for the rights of our clients. If you have been charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, call our skilled lawyers at 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We have the experience and knowledge to help you prevail in your criminal case; we look forward to speaking with you about how we can assist you.