A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that substantial parts of two key statements made by Paul Leon Jordan can be admitted as evidence in his trial on charges of murdering a 3-year-old girl and her baby sitter.
Judge Eugene Hamilton overruled arguments by the defense that Jordan, a 47-year-old Northwest Washington man accused of the Jan. 24 double slaying, was psychologically coerced into making the statements last February while suffering from serious symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Prosecutors have called the statements "the heart of the case" against Jordan.
However, Hamilton found that police failed to inform Jordan of his constitutional rights quickly enough during his long interrogation and therefore ordered that parts of his statements could not be used in the upcoming trial, which is scheduled to begin when the pretrial hearings are completed.
The prosecution and defense have been locked in a heated court battle that began in September over the statements -- including one on videotape in which Jordan told police that "I lost my head" before stabbing 56-year-old Cora Barnes and Crystin Fletcher, who was thedaughter of two District police officers. Jordan has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
During the courtroom battle over the statements, homicide Det. Joseph Schwartz testified that in a Feb. 14 interrogation Jordan told police he had a "sexual relationship" with Barnes, who lived next door to him at 4321 Second St. NW, that he often went to her home and that he knew Crystin.
According to Schwartz's testimony, Jordan told him that on the day of the slayings, he and Barnes "made love" on the bed where the child was sleeping. Crystin started to cry, and Barnes, then angry at Jordan, went to comfort the child, Schwartz said Jordan told him.
Schwartz testified that Jordan told him he "grabbed the baby around the throat . . . and choked" her and that Barnes tried to stop him. Then, according to Schwartz, Jordan said he got a butcher knife, struggled with Barnes and stabbed her.
Yesterday, Hamilton ruled that these oral statements by Jordan were "not involuntary" and that prosecutors may use them in Jordan's upcoming trial. But the judge also found that police should have stopped their interrogation and informed Jordan of his constitutional rights to remain silent and to have a court-appointed lawyer before continuing to question him. Therefore, he ruled, other parts of the statement, which contain further details of the crime, could not be used as evidence in the trial.
As to the videotaped statement, which defense attorneys argued showed a sweating, trembling Jordan "debilitated" by alcohol withdrawal, Hamilton ruled that Jordan was "not in any alcohol withdrawal state that robbed him of his judgment or senses."