Judge permits use of defendant's confessions in murder trial Marriottsville man's wife was killed in fall from ladder

January 12, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Prosecutors will be allowed to use at his trial confessions obtained by police from a man accused of causing his wife to fall to her death from a ladder last May.

Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis Sweeney ruled yesterday that investigators did not go beyond their bounds when they obtained a confession from the suspect, 51-year-old John Carroll Calhoun of Marriottsville.

Any statements the police got from Mr. Calhoun during a 3 1/2 -hour interview last June can be used against him at trial, the judge ruled. "The court finds that there is no basis for the suppression of the statements," Judge Sweeney said.

Defense attorneys wanted the statements withheld as evidence.

Mr. Calhoun is charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, assault with intent to murder, assault, battery and reckless endangerment in the May 13 slaying of his wife, 45-year-old Gladys Calhoun.

The defendant was scheduled to stand trial this week, but the case was postponed until May 17.

The prosecution contends that Mr. Calhoun, an employee at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, kicked the aluminum ladder his wife was standing on following an argument.

According to a police report, Mrs. Calhoun, who also worked at the NSA, suspected her husband was having an affair with a co-worker.

Mr. Calhoun was arrested following an interview with a county detective and a Baltimore County police interrogation specialist in his home on June 6, records say.

Defense attorneys had argued during previous hearings that a confession Mr. Calhoun made during the meeting should be withheld because of the "planned, methodical" nature of the interrogation.

The attorneys, Jonathan Scott Smith and Daniel Scherr of Columbia, said investigators brought pictures of Mrs. Calhoun's body, diagrams and a letter by the victim to the meeting to trigger a confession.

Judge Sweeney acknowledged that the interrogation was sophisticated but said that does not provide grounds to rule that the confession was not voluntarily given.

The interrogation "was structured. It was focused. [The investigators] approached it in a fashion that had a design to it," Judge Sweeney said. The judge also rejected a defense request to suppress the statements because investigators told Mr. Calhoun that he would face only minor charges if he confessed.

The defense contended that the officers told Mr. Calhoun during the interview that he would face misdemeanor charges that would not dramatically alter his life.

But the judge believed police officers who testified that Mr. Calhoun was told only after the interview, in response to his asking officers what charges he would face, that he might face the misdemeanor charges

Mr. Calhoun also was told that the charges would be determined by the county state's attorney's office and supervisors at the Police Department, according to testimony.

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