Lawyers want evidence excluded in killings of 8
BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (AP) — Defense attorneys are asking a judge to exclude videos and other evidence against a Mississippi man charged with killing a deputy, his mother-in-law and six others in May 2017.
Lincoln County Circuit Judge David Strong began hearing the motions concerning 37-year-old Willie Cory Godbolt on Wednesday, local news outlets reported. The hearing continued into Thursday.
Lawyers Alison Steiner and Katie Poor want the judge to exclude everything Godbolt said to police officers during his arrest, ambulance ride, hospitalization and transport to the Copiah County jail, where he’s held without bail. During those conversations, Godbolt appeared to admit to the killings, but his lawyers argue Godbolt was not properly read his rights during the arrest.
Godbolt is accused of killing a Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy, and seven others at three houses during an all-night rampage. He has pleaded not guilty to four counts of capital murder, four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of armed robbery. He’s being held without bail and is scheduled for trial in February.
Defense lawyers also want to exclude evidence investigators gathered from Godbolt’s car, home, cellphones and cell provider data, arguing officers improperly searched private locations. Prosecutors say all the searches were proper.
Among disputed items is a video shot by Therese Apel, who at the time was a reporter for the Clarion Ledger. Strong ruled the reporter didn’t have to say who tipped her off to the search for Godbolt, although Poor argued she needed to know if Apel was directed to the scene by a police officer who was “acting as a state actor.” Apel said she wasn’t called by law enforcement.
Over 30 minutes, Apel recorded 10 videos, some with conversations between her and Godbolt. In one, he asked her “You the policeman?” She responds, “I’m the media.” Godbolt told her he planned to die by “suicide by cop.” The prosecution wants to use all 10 videos as evidence.
Some background conversation is inaudible, but Apel testified that she heard Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Master Sgt. Damian Gatlin, now McComb’s police chief, read Godbolt his rights. However, Apel said “he talked through the whole thing.” Gatlin also testified that he read Godbolt his rights, as did at least three other officers.
Investigators say that on May 27, 2017, Godbolt went to his in-laws’ home in Bogue Chitto to confront his estranged wife and demand she give up their two children. Authorities said he began shooting after a standoff with Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Willam Durr. The victims included his mother-in-law, Durr and two others. Godbolt then went to two other homes, killing two of his teenage cousins and a husband and wife, investigators said.
Patrick Hardy, a former deputy who arrested Godbolt and accompanied him to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, recounted his memory of what Godbolt said while being arrested.
“People wouldn’t let him love his family and people had to die,” he said. “His anger was not meant for the deputy, that he just wanted to be with his wife and kids. He just kept saying it over and over.”
Deputy Kelly Porter, who is also an elected Lincoln County constable, testified he heard Godbolt talking about Durr, the deputy he is accused of killing.
″(He said) it wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to be there. People intervened. Or something along those lines,” Porter said.
The law enforcement officers questioned Wednesday all said it did not appear Godbolt was mistreated while handcuffed, that no excessive force was used and that he was not coerced or promised anything for statements.