A key piece of evidence was thrown out of a Johnson City teenager’s first-degree murder case because a judge essentially said he was bullied into confessing he killed his mother.
During a hearing on Thursday, Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp blasted police for how they obtained a confession from Codey Wayne Miller after the homicide of his mother, Sherry Cooper.
“I’m going to suppress the statement,” Cupp said. “A statement is to get the truth of what happened.
“I’ve never seen an interrogation like this in all my years as a judge or as an attorney. There is no human being in the world who can read this statement and know what Codey Miller’s involvement is,” Cupp said.
Miller, now 19, is charged with choking his mother to death and abusing her corpse by having sex with it. Cooper, 36, was found dead in a trash can outside her apartment May 9, 2009.
Miller was held and questioned for hours at the Johnson City Police Department after Cooper’s body was found by her ex-boyfriend and her brother.
Investigator Joe Harrah led the interrogation of Miller and Cupp said the video of the lengthy exchange alarmed him.
“Joe Harrah is a good investigator. He’s a good person. Quite frankly, when I saw the video, I was somewhat surprised,” Cupp said.
The judge read portions of the interrogation into Thursday’s court record to show what he based his decision on.
The verbal exchanges between Harrah and Miller went back and forth with the officer accusing the teen of killing Cooper and the teen denying it.
“It’s like two 10-year-olds arguing over a toy,” Cupp said at one point.
“It’s absolutely incredible to me. It’s mind boggling when I see that exchange,” he said.
Harrah repeatedly accused Miller of lying and told him “you shift your eyes, that’s a sign you’re lying.”
Miller told the investigator over and over that “I just want to go home. When can I go home?”
Harrah told Miller he could leave if he told the truth, to which the teen said he was telling the truth.
Cupp also said he was concerned about some of the things police told Miller to get the confession.
Harrah told the teen investigators had collected his DNA from Cooper and threatened Miller with the death penalty at one point.
“This is where it really gets interesting,” Cupp said. “(Miller) tells (Harrah) if he did anything he must have done it in his sleep.”
That’s when Harrah threw the death penalty statement at Miller and in just a few minutes, the teen said, “I did it.”
Early in the interrogation, Harrah had told Miller he would have to take a polygraph — which Miller called a polygon — and that he thought the teen would “blow it up” with his lies.
Miller welcomed the opportunity to take that test, and near the end of the questioning and after confessing, he asked Harrah about it.
“No, I believe you,” Harrah said about the confession.
Cupp said it wasn’t easy reaching his decision and he doesn’t know what the suppression will do to the state’s case. But he also said if the state appeals his decision, he is confident the Court of Criminal Appeals will agree with him.
Cupp said he also relied on mental and educational evaluations of Miller that showed he has borderline mental retardation.
Cupp still has to rule on suppressing the statement from Miller’s codefendant, Christopher Johnson. He’s also accused in the murder and abuse of a corpse.
Johnson is scheduled back in court Jan. 5.