Defense Fights To Get Manhattan Teen's Confession Thrown Out

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

RILEY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- The attorneys for a Manhattan murder suspect are trying to get his alleged confession to police thrown out before his upcoming trial.

Cole Drake, 16, appeared in Riley County District Court Thursday for a pretrial hearing. Cameras and electronics were not allowed in the courtroom during the proceedings.

Drake previously entered a plea not guilty to First Degree Murder and Aggravated Robbery in connection with the shooting death of his fellow Manhattan High School classmate, 14-year-old Tyler Dowling.

Tyler Dowling’s body was found in a field near the 500 block of Walters Drive in Manhattan on April 13, 2011 near Eisenhower Middle School. Dowling had been shot twice with a .22 caliber handgun.

Police say Cole Drake was the last known person seen with Tyler Dowling. The teens snuck out of their houses and were breaking into cars together or “car hopping” late at night on April 12, 2011 when the deadly shooting occurred, according to investigators.

Drake was questioned by Riley County detectives after Dowling’s body was discovered. At first, detectives thought that an angry homeowner had caught the boys burglarizing cars and fired a gun at them, killing Dowling. It wasn’t until Drake confessed to the deadly shooting that investigators say he became the suspect in the murder.

During an earlier hearing, a recorded confession Drake gave police was played in court. In the video, Drake said that Tyler Dowling and another friend named Patrick Goodman had been fighting and he thought he owed it to Goodman to kill Dowling and wanted to look tough. Drake claimed he didn’t want to kill Dowling but thought that he had to because his allegiance was more with Goodman. Patrick “DD” Goodman was not present when the shooting happened. In the recorded statement, Drake went on to say that he started walking slower across the field, behind Dowling, and pulled out the gun and shot him. As Dowling was bent over holding his head and trying to stand up and walk away, Drake says he shot him again in the side because he was scared Dowling was going to tell someone what he’d done and Drake saw no other way out of the situation. Drake says he ran away, throwing Dowling’s cell phone into a nearby pond because it was ringing at the time and tossing the gun under a shed at the Manhattan Baptist Church on Tuttle Street. He also said he washed his clothes when he got home to get rid of any gunshot residue and threw his sneakers away- all because he didn’t want to go to jail.

Drake’s attorney, Larry McRell, Chief Public Defender for the North Central Regional Public Defender's Office, says Drake (who was 14 at the time) did not fully understand his rights when he was questioned by police, calling the actions of investigators “coercive, deceptive and intimidating.”

During Thursday’s hearing, Drake took the stand and testified that he was confused when he was read his Miranda rights at Riley County Police Department and didn’t know how an attorney could help him or what a waiver of his rights meant. He says he was afraid of the police and did not have time to weigh the pros and cons of talking to them, nor did he think he had a choice in the matter.

McRell says Drake’s decisions were not free and deliberate choices when he spoke to the cops and that investigators promised him that he could speak to his mother at any time during the interviews but when he asked to talk to her, the request was not honored. McRell called it an “empty formality.” He says while investigators say they did not have their sights set on Drake before he confessed, the RCPD “full well knew that their target was Cole Drake” because of information they had received during the course of their investigation. McRell says detectives did not want to call Drake a suspect but wanted him to confess to the killing.

Last year, on September 1, 2011, a similar motion was filed to suppress Drake’s statements when he was being charged as a juvenile in the case. He is now being charged as an adult. Judge David Stutzman denied the motion, saying the young murder suspect should have known that he had the option to ask for a lawyer to be present when he was being questioned by police. Stutzman watched the videos from the interrogations and said Drake gave extended and apparently careful consideration to the matter of invoking or waiving his right to have a lawyer present for any questioning. He said Drake had ample opportunity to get the advice or counsel of his mother "at perhaps the most critical times, when his Miranda rights were being explained and his waiver was being considered."

Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson said that no additional evidence was presented during Thursday’s hearing that would provide a factual basis for the court to set aside the judge’s order from last year on the matter and that the judge had already taken special care when considering whether the statements should be used. He says Drake was advised of his right to an attorney and his right to remain silent.

Judge Stutzman said he would go through the material that was presented in court Thursday.

Cole Drake's trial is scheduled for September 24-28, 2012.


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