Downs' Lawyers Say Evidence Obtained Improperly

April 17, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Defense lawyers for a man accused of shooting his wife in her sleep will seek today to suppress evidence they say was obtained improperly.

Edwin F. Downs Jr., 31, is accused of shooting and killing his wife, Anne Rita Downs, 30, around midnight Dec. 19 at their Mount Airyhome. His trial is scheduled to begin May 13.

In pretrial motions, Downs' lawyers are also seeking to keep the jury from hearing testimony by a California man who identified Downs in a photo lineup as having bought a gun from him. A gun found by police the day of the murder was traced to the California man's father, Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said.

Downs' lawyers, Michael D. Mason and Jane Macht of Rockville, will summarize their request before Judge Raymond E. Beck today after they re-examine Monday and Tuesday testimony from 16 state and Montgomery County police officers.

In his opening statement, Mason argued that police suspectedDowns of the murder long before they told him and before they advised him of his right to counsel and to remain silent, thereby obtainingseveral statements from him when he believed he was being questionedas a victim.

Mason also argued that police searched Downs' home and van before getting warrants. He said the questioning and searches violated Downs' constitutional protection from self-incrimination andunreasonable search and seizure.

Mason also said the prosecution may have used questionable procedures in getting the photo identification by the California man. He said he wouldn't know until he questions the man in a pretrial hearing.

Downs called Montgomery County police about 3:20 a.m. Dec. 19 from the cellular phone in his van, saying he had been shot at by a man in a black Camaro while driving along Route 27 near Brink Road. He was on his route delivering papers forthe Washington Post.

In taped statements played at the hearings, Downs told police he believed the incident was connected to one he reported to Montgomery County police two days earlier. He said he was driving along an alley in Washington when he saw two black men holdinga gun to the head of a woman.

As police continued to question Downs in Montgomery County the morning of the shooting, state police Tfc. Ronald Diggs went to check on the Downs' home. He was met by the couple's 8-year-old son, who looked frightened and said his mother had blood on her face and looked dead, Diggs testified.

Montgomery County police said they knew of the death by about 4:30 a.m. but did nottell Downs until after getting another statement from him about the shooting he had reported.

Also, although police said they doubted Downs' story, they didn't reveal their suspicions until after noon.

Hickman played a cassette of state police Cpl. Wayne Moffatt interrogating Downs about 12:30 p.m. Dec. 19, in which Moffatt told Downs that police didn't believe his story of being shot at and suspected him of his wife's murder.

Moffatt read Downs his rights and offered a public defender, but Downs continued to answer questions and maintain his innocence.

Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Welliver ruled that Anne Downs died about midnight, but Downs insisted he last talked to her at 2:20 a.m.

Moffatt also told Downs that the glass found on Route 27 and on the driver seat indicated the van was not shot at while moving or while a driver was in the seat. Moffatt also said the bullets' trajectory showed they couldn't have come from a low car.

"We're going to investigate this further, but you are our suspect," Moffatt told Downs, whose reaction was an audible gasp.

After Moffattbegan asking Downs what he did with the gun, Downs asked for an attorney, and the taped interrogation ended.

Twice in the next few hours, Downs offered to tell police more, saying "a lot of innocent people got hurt and he wished he could start the day over," said Tfc. Barry E. Leese.

But Leese said he told Downs they couldn't ask him any more questions until his lawyer was present. After meeting with public defenders, however, Downs signed statements saying he refused to talk further with police.

Downs was denied bail in December by then-District Judge Francis Arnold. He has been held since at the Detention Center.

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