Shawn Gant-Benalcazar admitted to killing Kathy Blair on tape in a 2015 interview with detectives. However, his lawyers say the jury in his trial Thursday will see how detectives lied and coerced his answers.
Gant-Banalcazar, 33, is accused of burglarizing the home of choir teacher Kathy Blair, then stabbing, and strangling her to death. He faces capital murder charges and a jury will decide his fate. Prosecutors earlier this week showed the jury physical evidence, DNA, pictures of bloody shoe prints, cell phone pings, a heat signature camera.
His lawyers say he is not guilty because detectives violated his constitutional rights in the process.
Police can talk to people over the phone and in person. However, the law requires them to read someone their Miranda rights if they are placed in custody and are going to be questioned.
Early in the morning, Gant-Benalcazar’s defense tried to stop the jury from seeing the video but the judge let it play out. Prosecutors told the court that he was not in custody so Miranda rights were not needed.
The first phone call from detectives
Now retired Austin Police detective Derek Israel called Gant-Benalcazar in January 2015. Jurors heard the call where the detective told him he wasn’t a suspect.
“When we get into town should we just give you a call?,” asked Israel.
“Yeah I’ll have my phone on,” said Gant-Benalcazar
“I think we’ll probably meet … cause you know we have to meet somewhere where we can take statements and record the interviews,” said Israel, “We will probably meet over at one of the police stations in Galveston. We will let you know which one because we will have to work that out with them. We’re going to head out of here in just a little bit.”
“Yeah, this is messed up, I mean …,” said Gant-Benalcazar.
“Oh yea, no, I agree. We need to definitely just get this worked out and if you could …,” said Israel.
“I mean, you guys don’t really suspect me, right?,” asked Gant-Benalcazar.
“No, it. … so you may not realize it or not but you might have some information that will be really helpful in the case,” said Israel.
Gant-Benalcazar defense attorney argues that, was a lie. His legal team argued, the only reason two detectives would drop everything they were doing and drive four hours to Galveston was because they thought he was a suspect.
If so, they were legally required to inform him of his rights.
Prosecutors say everything was done legally.
The confession video
Friday, the jury watched a video of 33 year old Shawn Gant-Benalcazar confessing to the murder of Kathy Blair. His defense says police violated his protections under the constitution by reading his Miranda rights too late.
At the beginning of the video, Gant-Benalcazar said he wasn’t even with his friend – and accused killer – Tim Parlin. Then he admitted he was. Then he was in Kathy Blair’s neighborhood. Then he was in the same car. Then there was stolen jewelry. Then there was blood. All without detectives reading him his Miranda rights.
Gant-Benalcazar still thought Parlin was the suspect and not him.
“Let me be straight with you here. I’ve been leaving out the part about the bloody sack because I didn’t want failure to report, ok. I mean obviously something happened. I didn’t say anything about it because I didn’t want, you know, to get caught up in this,” Gant-Benalcazar told detectives in the video.
Friday, the jury will see the chunk of the video where police say Gant-Benalcazar admits to killing Kathy Blair and he tells detectives how he did it. After that is when police officially took him into custody, far too late according to his defense.