Attorneys for Telugu bidda Raghunandan Yandamuri appeared before Judge Steven T O’Neill of the Montgomery County Court in Pennsylvania this morning to have his video confession and written statements suppressed.
At issue is whether Yandamuri’s video enactment of the crimes and other statements he made to the police of his alleged heinous crimes should be suppressed and not be heard by a jury if the case goes to trial.
Raghunandan Yandamuri is charged in the killings of 10-month-old Saanvi Venna and her 61-year-old grandmother Satyavathi Venna during a botched kidnapping and robbery in their King of Prussia apartment on October 22, 2012.
Coerced or Not Coerced
Yandamuri’s attorney Stephen Heckman argued that his client had been coerced into confessing to the killing and had not been properly advised on his rights when he was interviewed.
For Raghunandan Yandamuri, a lot is at stake in the bizarre video enactment and statements he made to the police.
In the video, Yandamuri enacted the sequence of events of the crimes and toward the end of the interview admitted:
I don’t want to harm anyone but I harmed two people….I’m really sorry for what happened. …It’s a one-minute anger which I haven’t controlled myself. Because I have a good career, good job, good wife, good parents and everything. But it’s only one-minute which ruined my complete life now. I really feel sorry for what happened. I know the pain the parents and everyone are going through. I know this is not a small mistake and no one will forgive me. But I don’t even have words how to express my problem.
Although Yandamuri’s video enactment of the crimes and statements to Pennsylvania police officers seem non-coerced and authentic, it may not be legally admissible if Pennsylvania police goofed up the procedures leading to the interview.
The video and statements are extremely self-damning despite Yandamuri’s claims in the video that the killings were accidental.
In a recent interview with a Telugu news channel and now in court motions, Yandamuri claims his confession last year was coerced by the police and was unhappy that the video had been leaked to the public.
According to Raghunandan Yandamuri’s television interview, the confession was made only to save his wife and be able to meet her. He went on to argue that his confession was not legally valid.
Yandamuri also lashed out at the Pennsylvania police in the TV interview for not following up on his leads to the involvement of other people in the crimes.
Miranda Rights – Crucial Issue
In court today, Montgomery County Police Detective Paul Bradbury said he read Yandamuri his Miranda rights when he began to suspect that he was lying.
Bradbury told the court that Yandamuri was not under arrest when he was read his Miranda rights.
When Yandamuri was read his Miranda rights becomes extremely important because the video confession and statements he made are highly damning should they be allowed to be seen by a jury.
Detective Bradbury told the court he had been initially satisfied with Yandamuri’s written statements but questioned him in detail again at the urging of FBI agents.
It seems there had been contradictions in the accounts of Yandamuri and his wife as to his whereabouts on October 22, 2012, the date of the crimes.
Bradbury seemed to acknowledge that Yandamuri was not a suspect until late in the night of October 25, 2012.
Police statements should not be taken at face value since there have been several reported incidents of shoddy investigations and misconduct on their part.
A recent New Yorker article (December 9, 2013) suggests that police interrogation tactics have on occasion lead to false confessions by innocent people in the U.S.
Judge Steven O’Neill did not decide today on whether Yandamuri’s video confession and statements should be suppressed.
Instead, the Judge adjourned the hearing to 9:30AM, January 2, 2014.
On Thursday, January 2, Yandamuri’s attorney will cross-examine Detective Paul Bradbury.
The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for Raghunandan Yandamuri.
If Judge O’Neill rules for suppression of the video confession and other statements it will be a major victory for Yandamuri and call for investigation into the interrogation tactics deployed by the Montgomery County Police.