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Ruling that an FBI agent was acting as a father when his son confesseda double murder to him, the Georgia Supreme Court found the confessionadmissible and upheld the son’s conviction and death sentence.The appeal, considered to be the first of its kind, asked whether AndrewCook’s confession to his father was admissible, since he had not beenread his rights and had asked for a lawyer.Ruling 6-1 in the Henry County case, the Supreme Court Friday held thatAndrew Cook’s Miranda rights were not violated because his father, JohnCook, was not acting as an officer when he met with his son in the sheriff’soffice, hugged him and cried with him as the younger man confessed. Cookv. State, No. S98P1870 (Sup. Ct. Ga. March 19, 1999).”It is perfectly natural and reasonable for a parent, law enforcementor civilian to speak to his or her arrested child about an alleged crimeand give advice that may include cooperating with police and confessing.However, we can envision situations where a law enforcement parent mightsubject his or her arrested child to a custodial interrogation withinthe meaning of” Miranda, Justice P. Harris Hines wrote for the majority.But this was not such a case, Hines concluded.Joining him were Chief Justice Robert Benham and Justices Carol W. Hunstein,Leah J. Sears, Hugh P. Thompson and George H. Carley. Presiding JusticeNorman S. Fletcher dissented.”[T]he interview involved hugging and crying by father and son which isnot typical of a police interrogation,” Hines wrote. “Under these circumstances,we conclude that the trial court did not err by finding that John Cookacted as a father and not as an agent of the state when he met with hisson … . Further, the meeting between John Cook and his son was devoidof any trickery, deceit, or other psychological ploy.”RANDOM KILLINGSAndrew Cook approached his victims at random on Jan. 2, 1995, at a placeknown as “The Point,” on Lake Juliette north of Macon. According to theevidence at trial, Michele Lee Cartagena and Grant Patrick Hendrickson,Mercer University students, were parked in a car when Cook fired an AR-15rifle 14 times from 40 feet away. He then got closer and shot five moretimes with a Ruger handgun.After Cartagena was shot, Cook dragged her body from the car, partiallyundressed her, and spat on her. He then drove away.Police searched for the killer for two years. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation,which considered Andrew Cook a suspect, interviewed him about the killingsafter he was arrested on an unrelated charge, deer hunting out of season.Cook denied involvement in the killings.The GBI later contacted John Cook, who has since retired from the FBI,when it was unable to locate his son for further questioning. John Cookthen spoke with his son, who confessed to his father on the phone andthen in person the next day. The father testified against his son at thetrial.Andrew Cook’s lawyer, Kevin A. Wangerin of Forsyth, failed to persuadethe trial judge to let him tell the jury the circumstances of the confessions.He said the judge’s refusal affected his court strategy to an extent thathe did not to let Andrew Cook testify. He said he could not explain thatCook hadn’t been told of his rights although he had requested counsel.The Supreme Court found that the trial court had erred, but that the mistakewas harmless.”We disagree,” Wangerin says, “because obviously one of the major decisionsin the case was whether Andy Cook would testify … but the court madeit clear that it wasn’t going to allow any testimony concerning the voluntarinessof his statements to his father.”Putting him on the stand could have spared him a death sentence, saysWangerin, who had never before handled a death case.Wangerin did not say whether he will ask the court to reconsider its opinion.Flint Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tommy K. Floyd, who prosecutedthe case, says he initially believed it might be “risky” to use the statementbecause a search for cases precisely on point turned up nothing.But as a prosecutor, he says, “I felt we were on firm legal ground allalong. I never thought Miranda applied in this situation.”Hines used several similar federal precedents to support his reasoning.However, none of them involved the exact circumstances of this case: adiscussion between a parent who was a law enforcement officer and a child,leading to a confession by the child.For example, in a Chatham County case, United States v. Gaddy, 894 F.2nd1309-11 (11th Cir. 1990) a co-defendant in the case, William Danner, wasarrested by county police. Danner’s aunt, who was a police officer, calledher nephew “acting on her own” and told him to confess. She then set upa meeting between him and police, where he confessed.”She was a ‘worried aunt’ who ‘communicated with Danner, not to assistthe police department in solving a crime, but to protect her nephew,’” Hines wrote, citing Gaddy.In his dissent, Fletcher wrote that none of the cases used to supportthe majority opinion was applicable in the Cook decision.”The cases relied upon by the majority are not on point and do not supportthe majority’s conclusion. In United States v. Gaddy, the aunt who urgedGaddy to confess was an evidence technician employed by the county police.The aunt did not question Gaddy about the crime, but only urged him tospeak with the investigation officers,” Fletcher wrote.”The cases are also distinguishable because the defendant was given Mirandawarnings before making an inculpatory statement directly to or in thepresence of the police,” the dissent said.The appeal based on the Miranda rule and statements after invoking counselwas an uphill battle, says B. Michael Mears, director of the Multi-CountyPublic Defender Office, which represents defendants in death penalty trialsbut was not involved in this case except for assisting with some pre-trialmotions.Courts have consistently ruled that statements to third parties whilein custody and overheard by police are admissible, he says.”There are a lot of exceptions to Miranda. Even though a person is incustody and not given a Miranda warning does not mean everything the personsays is not covered,” Mears says.”The basis of Miranda is to protect an individual from being compelledto make [incriminating] statements,” Mears notes.

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