Judge says prosecution can use man's confessions in murder trial

Evidence seized from car, home also ruled admissible

January 20, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A judge ruled yesterday that prosecutors can use two confessions made by a 51-year-old Columbia man that he killed his wife and wounded her daughter outside the Howard County Circuit Courthouse last March.

Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure also ruled that evidence seized from Tuse S. Liu's rental car at the scene and from his home can be used against him at his trial on murder charges next month.

Liu is accused of shooting his wife and stepdaughter after a divorce proceeding in the same courthouse where he testified Tuesday during motions hearings. The shootings occurred on the parking lot.

Public Defender Louis P. Willemin said yesterday that he might still try to use an insanity defense for Liu, despite a summary report by state examiners that his client is competent to stand trial and is criminally responsible for his actions.

Willemin was trying to suppress evidence obtained from Liu because, he argued, his client didn't understand his rights and gave police a detailed statement after the shooting March 11.

Willemin said Liu did not understand the word "silent" -- as in all suspects have the right to remain silent -- and spoke to detectives anyway.

He argued that Liu should have been granted an interpreter because he does not speak English well.

Liu testified Tuesday through a Mandarin Chinese interpreter. At least twice, however, he answered prosecutors' questions before the interpreter had finished translating.

At one point, Liu said he did not remember police telling him about the right to remain silent -- despite signing his initials on that part of a waiver form. Later, Liu testified that he didn't question detectives about "silent" because he thought "one word was not so important."

Prosecutors argued that Liu was being "disingenuous" when he took the stand.

In her ruling, Leasure said she did not find Liu to be credible. Liu had testified in his divorce case moments before the shooting and was "able to communicate quite well in English," Leasure said. During the divorce hearing, Liu had declined an interpreter.

The importance of Leasure's ruling is unclear. Prosecutors have forensic evidence and eyewitnesses to the shooting. But they could use Liu's confessions and lengthy statements to attack his assertions that he was insane at the time of the shooting.

During his police interrogation, according to transcripts, Liu told a detective in English that he had fired five rounds from his shotgun and four from his pistol.

"So, when you saw them coming, what did you do?" the detective asked Liu.

"Just get out of the car and shot them," he answered.

The day after the shooting, when he appeared before a District Court commissioner, Liu said: "I don't need an attorney. I did it."

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