Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Legality of APD interrogation technique called into question

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Questions are now being raised regarding the interrogation of a high-profile Austin murder suspect.

Chief Acevedo with the Austin Police Department told YNN that APD detectives used a false DNA document while questioning Mark Alan Norwood about the 1988 murder of Debra Baker in North Austin.

Norwood was arrested in November for the 1986 murder of Christine Morton. He is charged with capital murder for her death and sits in a Williamson County jail awaiting trial.

Before Norwood was taken into custody, APD investigators were given the chance to question him regarding the Baker case.

During Norwood’s interrogation, according to Chief Acevedo, investigators showed the 56-year-old Bastrop man a fake DNA lab report, claiming it applied to him. Acevedo told YNN that type of "interrogation technique" is not unusual in an attempt to lead a suspect to a confession.

The Texas Department of Public Safety forensics lab determined a hair found at the Baker crime scene was that of Norwood’s. DPS provided that information to APD detectives to be used as part of their investigation while the report was completed. The final DNA analysis report was not complete at the time of Norwood's questioning by Austin police.

The Travis County District Attorney’s office said a prosecutor was present during the questioning. After the false DNA lab report was presented in an attempt to mislead Norwood, the assistant district attorney told detectives the interrogation method may be a violation of state law.

In March of 2010, a criminal court of appeals overturned a murder conviction in San Antonio after it was discovered that police lied to the suspect. Detectives told the suspect, while in custody, his fingerprints were on a gun magazine when in fact no fingerprints were found.

The higher court said police in that case broke state law, ruling the presentation of false facts was "tampering with evidence."

First Attorney John Neal with the Travis County DA's office said since Norwood did not confess during police questioning, it should not affect the outcome of his case. But the DA's office chose to seek council with the County Attorney's office to review if any state law had been violated by Austin detectives.

County Attorney David Escamilla confirms they were asked by the DA to look into the matter.

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