A Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday that Brian A. Tate's father had the authority to consent to a search of his son's room two days after the youth's arrest for murder.
But Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. said he will further study the issue of whether Arthur C. Tate Jr. was coerced into consenting to the Feb. 27 search that produced key evidence in the prosecution's case. He will rule on the defense motion to suppress the evidence -- a pair of brass knuckles and a wallet belonging to the victim -- as well as several other motions at a later date.
Arguments on pretrial motions to suppress evidence, which began Monday, concluded yesterday. Defense lawyers also have moved to suppress two blood-splattered towels, taken during a Feb. 25 search. And they want to compel the state to reveal the identity of a confidential informant who revealed the whereabouts of the brass knuckles and wallet, as well as the deal he received for his cooperation.
Brian Tate, 16, is charged with the Feb. 16 murder of Jerry Lee Haines, 19. Mr. Haines had been dating a 16-year-old girl the Tate youth had dated previously.
Young Tate's attorney, George S. Lantzas, had argued that because the wallet and brass knuckles were found in a bathroom off his third-floor bedroom and used only by him, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy. His father, therefore, did not have the authority to allow three Anne Arundel County police detectives to search there for evidence.
But Judge Thieme ruled that Mr. Tate did have the authority over his son, a minor.
"I just do not accept your position," Judge Thieme said. "It is absolutely inconceivable that a parent doesn't have access to a minor's room."
Most of the arguments in the three-day hearing centered on whether Arthur Tate was coerced into allowing officers to search the room. According to testimony in the hearing, a confidential informant at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center overheard a telephone conversation in which Brian Tate discussed the existence of the evidence.
Mr. Tate testified Tuesday that police threatened him with arrest at least a half-dozen times if he did not allow them to search the bedroom. The officers testified, however, that they merely pointed out that Mr. Tate could have been prosecuted for obstruction of justice or accessory after the fact if he had moved or destroyed evidence.
Mr. Lantzas said that Mr. Tate was in a highly vulnerable state of mind and the detectives "used subtly coercive methodologies and discussions to obtain the consent."
Prosecutor Eugene M. Whissel II countered that detectives allowed Mr. Tate to speak with his attorney before the search and that they were very sympathetic to his plight.
"If they wanted to create a coercive environment, this was not the way to go about doing it," he said.
The trial is set for Nov. 17.