NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday ordered a new trial for a Gibson County man who was convicted of killing and dismembering his mother, after finding that his statements to police shouldn't have been used against him.
The unanimous opinion said that statements David H. Climer Jr. gave to police should not have been admitted into evidence because prosecutors failed to show that he understood his rights and waived his right to a lawyer before being interrogated.
Even though his statements can't be admitted in a new trial, the court ruled that evidence police later learned from Climer, including the discovery of the mother's mutilated corpose, could be.
"Our holding enforcing Miranda and the constitutional rights it secures certainly should not be interpreted as minimizing the murder which may have occurred or the abuse of a corpse, which did occur," the unanimous opinion written by Justice Cornelia A. Clark said. "Our decision also should not be interpreted as denigrating the efforts of the police officers charged with investigating the victim's disappearance and death."
The case involves the 2007 slaying and dismemberment of Doris Deberry. The 62-year-old woman had been missing since for months when police arrested Climer and questioned him in the case.
A detective with the Gibson County Sheriff's Office told Climer that he had a right to remain silent and the right to speak to an attorney. The opinion shows the detective continued interrogating Climer even though the suspect refused to sign papers saying he understood his rights and was waiving his right to have a lawyer present. The detective told Climer that he couldn't have an attorney present at the time he was questioned, the opinion said.
During the questioning, Climber admitted to dismembering his mother but denied killing her. He said he discovered his mother lying dead after she had been drinking heavily and had fallen. He said he feared police would suspect him because he had been arrested in the past for assaulting his mother, court documents say.
Climer told investigators that he used a hatchet, hammer, hacksaw and battery-powered saw to cut up the corpse and used the kitchen stove to boil the hands and feet, court documents say. He also led investigators to his mother's mutilated remains in a wooded area of Madison County.