What happens when the police get "clever"

Guest Post by Eric Muller, crossposted from Is That Legal?

There's much talk here in Chapel Hill about a judge's recent decision to throw out the confession of Andrew Dalzell to the murder of Deborah Leigh Key--a murder that had gone unsolved for nearly eight years.

Dalzell, who had long been a suspect in the murder, was arrested in another part of the state for obtaining property by false pretenses. Dalzell was not immediately read his Miranda rights. In preparation for the ride back to the Chapel Hill area (Carrboro, for you local folk), Carrboro police officers prepared a fake arrest warrant for the murder and left it on the seat next to Dalzell so that he could see it. They also got a piece of the District Attorney's stationery (with the D.A.'s consent) and concocted a phony letter in which the District Attorney said he was seeking the death penalty for Key's murder. An officer read Dalzell the bogus letter during the ride back to Carrboro.

When Dalzell got very upset, one of the officers told Dalzell to "tell the truth about whatever happened" and "to be a man and let the demon go." Dalzell then confessed. Only later did the police read Dalzell his Miranda rights.

State superior court judge Wade Barber threw out the confession on Monday, concluding (absolutely rightly, in my view) that the police tactics amounted to illegal interrogation of Dalzell.

Some in the community are upset that the focus on the interrogation has made Dalzell, the confessed murderer, into something of a victim.

Some will undoubtedly scream about a horrible justice system that lets guilty people off on "technicalities" (as if the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were "technicalities").

I think the focus should not be on Dalzell (who deserves no sympathy), or on "the system," but squarely on our local law enforcement supervisors, whose errors (for that is what they are) have probably deprived the family of Deborarh Leigh Key of the chance to get justice. (All that remains to the case is slim physical evidence, which had not been enough to support Dalzell's arrest on the murder charge in the first place.)

The chief of the Carrboro police reportedly called this interrogation scheme "brilliant" (!), and the district attorney was made aware--in advance--of the scheme, approved of it, and allowed the officers to use his stationery.

How will these officials be held accountable for failing the victims with their "cleverness?"




I am not sure what physical or other supporting evidence CPD has that led them to Dalzel, but this thread was started as a result of Dalzel's confession. It's understood here that we're all conversing hypothetically and the juries decide if a suspect is in fact guilty.

Let's give CPD some credit, they didn't just pull the first guy off the street that gave them a dirty look.

I find all of this most amusing; it seems that everyone knows that Dalzell in fact killed Key. Yet there is no supporting evidence for this. How is it everyone is so sure? Do you really know what you would have said and or done in his place? Would you rather take the chance of putting an innocent man behind bars, or find the person who did do it? Have any of you stopped condemning him long enough to consider that he may be innocent? Or… were each and every one of you there to witness what horrendous crime was committed that night?

It's very clearly legal for the police to lie or misrepresent themselves during the course of an interview, interrogation or investigation. Undercover work is a pretty common use of misrepresentation. The extent of the degree to which they can lie is the question. Just from a few moments research, all I could find was one Supreme Court case that simply stated that lying must be considered within the "Totality of the circumstances". The decision is here if you care to read it.


I just ran into this forum a day ago. I'm sorry I didn't find it sooner. It's an interesting dialogue.
I think it's important to remember some of the practicalities of this case. This was a case that was seven years old, with a minimal amount of evidence. The victim had never been located, and the chances of locating her appeared to be, seven years after the fact, almost non-existent. The police had very little to lose by using an interrogation technique that was pushing the envelope of what would be accepted in court. The chances of gathering sufficient evidence against Dalzell using standard techniques had failed for seven years. They literally had no case to lose.
Another important issue to remember is that a District Attorney in North Carolina is not a police attorney. They are elected officials who are supposed to represent the people of their jurisdiction in court. A police attorney is an attorney retained by a department as a legal advisor, and also to represent the department in any legal action against the department. It's a fine distinction, but a very important one. Police sometimes consult with the DA's simply because the DA's will be their representative in court, but they are under no obligation to, and the DA is under no obligation to offer advice.
In all probability Dalzell will never be tried for the murder. What took place that night is now a matter of public record, and he has to live with himself. It's hard to think of a worse punishment than that.

I knew Debbie many years ago. We attended school together, and I remember seeing her at times in Chapel Hill over the years. I always remember her as being a warm, friendly, loving person. My heart goes out to her friends.

I think the police officers who intimidated Dalzell for hours, but didn't think they were "interrogating" him since none of their sentences were formed as questions should be disciplined for such poor judgement.

And I think the D.A. should face some serious consequences, not just for failing to advice the police correctly, but for not taking full responsibility for the results of his actions. I will keep this in mind when Fox is up for re-election ('06?).

Isn't the very core of the case is the legal definition of interrogation that Eric cited?

It seems to me, given that the CPD was consciously planning from the beginning to walk the VERY fine line between legal and illegal practices, then "Hey guys (or 'Hey Carl' if you prefer), what exactly IS the legal definition of interrogation, anyway?" should have been Question #1. (And the *answer* to that question should have been hammered home to all involved.)

It sounds like the arresting officers took a plan which was (at least barely) legal and then went all "Hollywood Improv" with it. I'm sure it would have made a great episode of COPS, but in real life all it did was turn their golden opportunity into a golden shower...

The death penalty has no place in a civilized society.

Why the Aldermen appear to be tolerating Chief Hutchison's intransigence and fingerpointing is beyond me. She seems willing to blame anyone and everyone but her own officers and, by extension, herself. Thus, we get the headscratching cognitive dissonance of this position: "I'm proud of my officers's brilliant actions, which are all Carl Fox's fault."

I think this is the problem with the Chief's contention that the D.A. "approved" the plan. From the article cited by Chilton above:


Fox recalls telling Lau that he could delay telling Dalzell what he was being charged with unless Dalzell asked. "I said you don't have to immediately advise him of his Miranda rights as long as you don't ask him any specific questions," Fox said. "I never asked him about saying anything to him, so we didn't get into that."

In his testimony during the hearing on whether to throw out the confession, Lau testified he said several things to Dalzell about how the police had finally got him. Cpl. Seth Everett also testified that he told Dalzell to tell the truth and let the demon out.


So, here we have a situation where you could reasonably say that Lau discussed the plan with Fox, but didn't necessarily carry it out in the way they discussed it. Unless the Chief is willing to say that Carl Fox told them they could also question their suspect about the murder without reading him his rights, that they ought to refuse to feed him or allow him to make phone calls for nine hours before he confessed, and so on, then I think her statement is intolerable bunk and the worst sort of irresponsible ass covering.

Now Hutchison seems bent on starting a war between the D.A.'s office and the Carrboro Police Department. That should be good for public safety! It's one thing to answer questions put to you by reporters, as Fox has done. It's another thing to issue press releases in order to call the D.A. a liar.

The Aldermen have a bad situation on their hands that they continue to let spin out of control. Good job!

At the very least the two parties -- D.A. Carl Fox and the CPD -- share responsibility for the stupid plan that resulted in the confession being disallowed. Even if you believe that Carl Fox approved, in advance, every single action taken by the police that day (which I don't believe), then you still can't escape the fact that the police were willing participants who cooked up the scheme and carried it out.

Therefore, the point still stands -- the police did wrong, and they need to be made to understand that they did wrong, publicly. Chief Hutchison should quit issuing press releases and start the work of figuring out what the hell went wrong in her department.

Here's the gem from the latest Herald-Sun piece. Fox says this of his conversation with Lt. Lau: "I said you don't have to immediately advise him of his Miranda rights as long as you don't ask him any specific questions," Fox said. "I never asked him about saying anything to him, so we didn't get into that."

Remember: the police are required to read a suspect his Miranda warnings before subjecting him to "custodial interrogation." We know Dalzell was in "custody;" he'd been arrested and was in the back of a police car.

And so what, then, is "interrogation?" Well, the following has been the law for at least 24 years (since the US Supreme Court case of Rhode Island v. Innis):

"[T]he term 'interrogation' under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect."

Wayne mentions the Simpson case. That case was pursued capitally and resulted in a 2nd degree guilt verdict. I'll see what I can do to get you more information on others. I'm not in my office today, so it might take me awhile.

Yes, it would appear that the police were misguided in the legal nature of interrigation when they consulted with Fox.

I don't think the police chief should be fired. No one knows for sure to what extend "everyone was in on it". I do know in the past the CPD had been very thorough in investigating Dalzell. Four years ago, before searching the Dalzell house (when we were living in it) the police were very careful to meet with us first and discuss the situation before taking any action. This meeting took place at our residence and the police were in the company of the town attorney. So you could say by extension that top admin in Carrboro / Orange have been closely monitoring this investigation for a number of years.

I don't think Chief Hutchison should be fired, either. That wouldn't solve the problem. But I also don't think that fingerpointing is solving the problem, either.

The police have as much of a responsibility to understand the rules of interrogation as the district attorney does. Therefore, even if we accept that Carl Fox gave poor advice, or didn't speak clearly enough, or whatever, it does not absolve the police department of its responsibility in this. The D.A. was not in that squad car, and he was not in that interrogation room. Those officers do not work for him, and he did not control their every act.

A reasonable person might suggest that this situation calls for a thorough refresher course on the rules of criminal procedure for all involved. Instead, we're getting press releases that shift blame and, hilariously, get agitated over whether someone said a piece of paper was "stationery" or not.

Carl Fox has at least owned up to errors he made, including in today's Herald-Sun article. (Whether he made other errors we'll never know, unless there's a recording of the conversation he had with Lau.) He's also issued guidance to the other police departments in the judicial district based on the experience of this case. Whether or not the other police departments _need_ this guidance, especially as it derives from a screw-up Fox was party to, is another question. Even so, this gesture seems somewhat responsible to me. More can be done, but the CPD seems to be taking the stance -- publicly, at least -- that nothing needs to be done except to call the D.A. a liar.

I hope the Board of Aldermen don't feel the same way.


I like Carl Fox, a lot & Beverly Scarlett...I just think Carl has been unduly influenced by the PC crowd at town hall.

Sad, sad day,
I have known Andrew for years, BTW.

I just saw on the 5:00 news that Andrew is out on bond. The court threw out his confession. What innocent person would confess to a crime they did not commit. Especially on the basis of a letter, that they saw in the back of a squad car? Anyone wonder why he 'lawyered-up' so early on. He even advised AD, not to take a lie detector test, AD told me that himself. Surely not because AD kissed DK good-night!

I also wonder what Wade Barber and James Williams, plan to say to the parents and friends of this monster's next victim?

When it happens, I hope both of them have to do serious jail time!

Fred and John, I understand your points. The Chief released a statement yesterday explaining what transpired. I don't expect eveyone to agree (either on what happened or on what the limits of police action ought to be), but I do think the cops should use the lawful methods at their disposal - especially in a murder case. And I think that is what they meant to do here. Whether they actually did or not is for the courts to decide.

It sounds from the latest article like the DA was not clear on what the police were going to put on his letterhead. Here is the latest H-S story:

I still haven't seen Judge Barber's order suppressing the evidence. There were several different aspects of the CPD's plan that were controversial and it would be interesting to know which of these actions Judge Barber feels crossed the line (ie the Miranda timing? The Fake Warrant? The Letter?) What if the letter is the really critical issue according to Judge Barber and all parties agree that the DA's letterhead was blank when given to the CPD? What if the Judge's main issue is the fake warrant (which was the centerpiece of the plan)? I think the Judge's actual ruling makes a big difference in understanding this case.

Has anyone out there actually read the ruling?

I don't recall the cases off-hand, but although Carl Fox has never convinced an Orange or Chatham County jury to impose the death penalty, he has pursued the death penalty in a number of cases.

Police departments that "respect the law and individual rights" do not use fake arrest warrants, detain people for prolonged periods without informing them (truthfully) of the charges against them, and interrogate suspects without informing them of their rights. It concerns me that the CPD believed these tactics would be considered legally appropriate and that the department continues to publicly defend such tactics. (Does this mean that these practices are standard in the CPD? What was the DA's role, really?) It's beginning to concern me even more that the mayor and the Board of Aldermen aren't making a little more noise about all this.

When it comes to investigating rape, murder and other violent felonies, I expect the Carrboro Police Department to use every lawful, Constitutional tactic that is available to them and necessary to prosecute the case. As a staunch civil libertarian, I also expect the police to stop short of going beyond that. The CPD would have done better if they had received different advice about the constitutionality of the plan, but the police are not lawyers or judges. They are knowledgable about Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure, but they can not be expected to be experts on it. Precisely because they recognized their own lack of expertise in this area, they consulted with the DA. The fact that the DA approved of the plan does not affect the question of whether Dalzell's rights were violated, but it does mean that we have an intelligent and dedicated Police Department that cares about acting within the bounds of the Constitution.

Mark K,

I would be very interested in the cases you cite where an Orange County DA pursued the DP.


Mark C,

I question whether the CPD consulted with the DA on the constitutionality of the plan. From what we know they told Carl Fox they were going to make an arrest and they asked for a piece of stationery. That is all we know.

John A

John, based on my conversations with Town staff, there was a detailed discussion of the plan with the DA. The communication was entirely verbal as I understand it, so there is no written evidence of what transpired in that conversation. I find it a little surprising that everyone takes the reporting in the Herald-Sun as definitive.

John, that is not "what we know" (at least not in my case), that's what Carl Fox said. The police and the Town have indicated that there was more cooperation than that.

So Mark C. and Ruby, if the info in the two papers is incomplete (?) or wrong (?), which public official or officials has the obligation to tell people what really happened?

I think this is serious stuff, especially when public officials accuse another public official of not telling the (whole?) truth on an issue that is as important as this one.

Ruby and Mark,

What I said didn't come from Fox or the Herald Sun, it is based on a conversation I had with one of the officers two days after the arrest in September- and what he said happens to agree with what Fox has put forth recently.


I think it's a fair statement to say that Carl Fox is at best a "weak advocate for capital punishment". He doesn't seem to jump at the chance. Then again most murders in this district are not motivated by the same things (or are as aggravated)as in places nearby like Durham (drug/gang related) county (yet).

The most recent murder cases in the Chapel Hill/Orange County area were murder suicides or murderers who were especially young, (or arguable mentally unstable, i.e. Wendell Williams) so getting a death sentence has not be an alternative.

With that said, it's Orange County jurists and leaders that you really have to wonder about, especially when you consider the murderer of Kristen Lodge-Miller (the jogger murdered by Anthony Georg Simpson). Simpson comes up for parole review each April, and I doubt that the Chapel Hill or Carrboro city councils (or alderman) would think to protest such a thing (a while back Mayor Kevin Foy all but refused to entertain the notion of sending a note to the Parole Commission to protest Simpsons possible release when I asked him to via email and after I left messages in on his answering machine).

Buck Copeland was murdered inside the McDonald's on Franklin Street during the early 90's and his family would have supported a death sentence. Our local DA didn't seriously consider it (I was told that by a relative of Copeland). An execution was never pursued for reasons I am not aware of. Maybe someone else posting here can say just why. That murderer did beeline it to CHPD where he turned himself in.

I'd still be interested in what the CPD procedures are with regards to interrogating suspects. If they broke their own rules, they deserve to be disciplined. If Fox failed to provide adequate advice to CPD, I hope he has learned a lesson from these recent events. I still disagree with Fox's decison to provide CPD with a blank letterhead. They could have put anything they wanted on it once they had it. Not being there for the "suspicious questioning" doesn't release him from some responsibility if he let CPD use papers from his office.

I guess CPD could have done a lot better than they did (and so could Fox) on the Key murder case, at least so far. CPD should amend its procedures to prevent things like this from happening (if they haven't already). They (CPD) owe the public an explanation. If CPD won't take responsibility for what has happened in this case, then it merits the attentions of the Carrboro Alderman. Bottom line, it's not "new news" that this area/district doesn't understand murder the way that others do.

If Fox's actions were inappropriate, that's a matter for the NCBAR to consider or act on. Not the CHN or Carrboro Alderman.

I would have to strenuously object to Adam Hupp's assertion that the police have the moral and legal right to 'lie' if it might further their investigation. Even disregarding the legal precedent it sets, do you not find that an offensive notion, as an innocent person? What if they were to lie to you in the course of an investigation that in some way tangentially concerned you? Would you not be alarmed, as a citizen, by such behaviour?

It does appear to me that CPD's behaviour should be reviewed - but Carl Fox seems likely to have had some involvement as well. Disregard of core constitutional and legal precedents will not, in the long run, benefit the community or the police force & legal system.

Carl Fox is not stupid. I am willing to bet that when Fox gave them his stationary he said he didn't want to know what the Carrboro Police were planning to do with it. Therefore Fox can say now that he had no idea what Carrboro Police were up to when his hand got caught in the cookie jar.

Ms. Murrell is right the Carrboro Aldermen need to speak out about the dirty laudary that is in their own backyard. Time and again the Aldermen have put their nose in other peoples' business thoughout this state, nation, and around the world. It is time for them to clean up/out their own house.

Eric, it is in the article from the CHN that I posted above:


Orange-Chatham District Attorney Carl Fox said he was advised of the plan, though he did not have all the specifics. He said he knew officers planned to delay telling Dalzell what he was charged with and advising him of his rights. Fox said the method of investigation is a police matter and “it is not part of my duty to advise [police] on arrest procedures.”

As to whether the officers' actions were legal, Fox said “That is for a judge to decide. That is why we are having this hearing.”

As a member of the Carrboro Board I stand behind our police department and our Chief .I believe the majority of the rest of the board does as well.These are good people who respect the law and individual rights,they are the very people a progressive wants on it's police force.They acted with the knowledge and APPROVAL of the DA.It is very sad and frustrating that they are being scape goated.Because they must continue to work with the DA on other cases in order to serve our community and because as law enforcement professionals they not used to engaging in political debate they are now in the positon of being unable to defend themselves against political behind covering.This is a very sad time for our community.

To Jacquie Gist - If the DA forced them to adopt this course of action, then they need to say, straightforwardly, that this is the case. In any event, they acted without the 'respect' that you claim. The DA didn't fail to administer the Miranda warning, and the DA didn't falsify that warrant - CPD's officers did.

Jackie, it's one thing for Ruby to put allegations on her Blog about a public official and question his integrity and judgment. But I think that you as a public official need to offer the proof that you have when you publicaly say that another public official is now engaging in "political butt covering," something that I call lying. I think you owe this to the residents of Orange and Chatham Counties who elect the DA and need to know if he is not trustworthy as a public servant and is in violation of his oath of office.

Ms. Gist,

Almost all of my experiences with the Carrboro Police Department over the years have been positive and I, too, believe the Department deserves our support. But not in this particular case. What Lao did cannot be justified, legally (as Judge Barber correctly decided).

Now, if you're in a position to tell me you have information which conclusively establishes, as you appear to claim, that Lao and the Chief put that plan in motion only after full disclosure of the details to Mr. Fox and with Mr. Fox's blessings, I'd be prepared to reconsider. They aren't lawyers and he is, and they ought to be able to rely on his judgment. I understand why they might be reluctant, as you point out, to get into a he said/she said with Fox. But what about you? If you have information that would, in effect, exonerate the Carrboro PD, don't you have an obligation to disclose it to the public?


What do people make of how Dalzell was brought into custody in the first place - that he invited Carrboro police into his home to provide security while he moved?

Was that just taunting?

The H-S story said, "Fox acknowledged Tuesday that he gave Carrboro investigators a piece of his office stationery before they went to arrest Dalzell, but said he did not ask them what they planned to do with it. Fox said he did not authorize them to sign his name on the document."

I think you can in good conscious have a problem with the DA's action in this case, but that's a long way from he "approved" the actions of the police. DAs, lawyers, the police and all of those who play them on TV associate specific meaning to the word "approved," and I just haven't read anything about this case that demonstrates to me his approval.

Fred, I can't find it right this second, but I remember reading something in the last couple of days that said that Fox was aware of the officers' plan to delay giving Dalzell his Miranda rights, and that he approved of that. If I'm remembering it correctly, this still doesn't show that he approved of conduct amounting to interrogation during the approved delay. But--again, assuming I'm remembering this correctly--it does show that Fox knew more about the strategy than just giving up a piece of his letterhead.

The issue here is whether or not detectives strayed from established procedures when they presented a false document to illicit a confession from a suspect. If they broke their own rules they should be disciplined.

If there's a legal precedent to support the judges decision to exclude the confession (another case that demonstrates that presenting a suspect with a fake arrest warrant represents an infringement of a suspects rights) perhaps that's appropriate. I won't waste any time here pretending to be a lawyer when I am not. I do question whether or not we have a judge who is attempting to create new law or set precedents or legislate from the bench.

If a suspect could conceivably face murder charges, it's a no brain-er that they could also face a potential death sentence. We aren't talking about a retarded suspect here either so Mirandizing him is redundant (albeit required). You'd have to be a real dolt not to understand your rights to shut up and request a lawyer when being questioned by police, even Carrboro police. If the detectives delayed reading Miranda warnings it might also have been because they were less than sure that they should formally charge him until then. Was using fake documents unfair? I don't think so. Do I approve of this kind of those tactics? No. Was this suspect being tortured or abused? No. Should a suspect be compelled to lie to police (or make a false confession)? No. Is it appropriate for Carl Fox to provide a blank piece of stationary (the equivalent of a blank check!) with his office letterhead to police for the purpose of interrogation? No.

One side comment to Duncan, in fairness, this case (Dalzell/Key) in Carrboro does not deserve to be compared to Alan Gell's or Allen Ray Jenkins'. The Carrboro Alderman “don't have a dog in that fight” which was in another county. The Alderman's business is not the business of the NC Bar.

If we've discovered a “legal” means or loophole to avoid the truth about who murdered Deborah Leigh Key, it's not a proud moment for anyone. Fwiw, there are other cases where suspects were told that they could face a potential death sentence and it resulted in the recovery of a body.


I think we can all agree that the Carrboro PD was motivated by a desire to recover the victim's body. No? Let's resist the temptation to be mean spirited and resort to claims that this case in an example of an “arrest at all costs” strategy gone awry.

How can you who live in the community of Chapel Hill during a time like this, discuss the court proceeding! Would it not seem more situable to find out what really happened,someone screw up the case!! THE POLICE FAILED TO DO A JOB!! RIGHT ARE WRONG THE OUTCOME IS NOT GOING TO HELP DEBBIE KEY's, SHE UNFORTUATELY CAN NOT SPEAK FOR HERSELF, SHE HAS BEEN MURDER!! I PERSONALLY WOULD THINK THE COMMUNITY SHOULD WRITE IN THE BLOGS, TO THE POLICE, GET THEM TO ANSWER TO THE FAMILY, COMMUNITY ABOUT FORGETTING THE RULES OF LAW!!!

I have a great deal of respect for the Carrboro Police Department. At a time when I needed their protection, they were professional, caring, and efficient. But this situation is bad. The police chief clearly supports this undercutting of civil justice and she and her department needs to be (at minimum) publicly reprimanded.

This is a matter of public trust. If you get picked up, do you trust your police department to treat you fairly--innocent until proven guilty? If you are victimized, do you trust your police department to run a legal and effective investigation?

I second Duncan's suggestion that the Carrboro Aldermen step up and make a public statement of reprimand and initiate an investigation. Nip it now!

I do not believe the police had the approval of Carl Fox to do what they did. He obviously doesn't either.

I believe the Carrboro Police deserve quite a lot of blame, since they hatched the scheme. Carl Fox has done wrong here, but it's unclear how much he knew of the CPD plan, or _wanted_ to know, as others have pointed out.

One thing Eric left off was the fact that the fake arrest warrant had Chief District Court Judge Joe Buckner's name on it, apparently without his permission. It was not signed, however.

Other things that occur to me:

1. Dalzell is also charged with various crimes related to child pornography and possibly arranging via the Internet to do _something_ with a minor, of whom he allegedly has provocative photos. Dalzell's attorney will likely file a motion to suppress the search of Dalzell's apartment, which allegedly yielded the computer containing evidence of these crimes, on the theory that the search was ordered after an illegally coerced confession. There's lots to argue on this point, I gather, esp. whether the search really _was_ fruit of the poisoned tree, but the actions of the Carrboro Police Department – far from being “intellectual,” as Jean Bolduc puzzlingly contends in her Herald column – have put even these charges in jeopardy, at least for the moment.

2. Recently, a Carrboro Alderman asked the local bar association to issue a letter calling on the prosecutors in the Allen Gell case (Bertie County) to be charged with crimes themselves for their suppression of exculpatory evidence and the general abuse of power that put an innocent man on death row. Granted, the abuse of power in the Dalzell case doesn't rise to that of the Gell case, and not a whole lot of people are arguing that Dalzell is actually innocent (although, other than the illegally coerced confession, the state has nothing much.).

Now that the Carrboro Aldermen have an actual abuse of power in their own department, and a police chief who refuses to acknowledge that her department did anything wrong, or was anything less than “brilliant,” I wonder if this Alderman (or any other) will take steps to set the department straight on this matter.

The fact is that the Police Chief is wrong, and allowing her to continue to assert that she and her department were right to do what they did and, by implication, that they know the law better than the attorneys and Superior Court Judge Wade Barber, sends a _terrible_ message to the rest of the officers on the department, especially the newer ones.

I call on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen to publicly acknowledge that their police department erred in this case, and to emphatically declare that the Chief is wrong. Whether this means rebuking or disciplining the members of the department, I don't really know. Carl Fox's actions should also be examined by the members of the bar for possible violations of the professional code of conduct.

3. Eric Muller is absolutely right to steer our attention toward the disservice this police department has done the victims and the community at large in thise case. The victims might never get justice now, thanks to the incompetence – willful or otherwise – of the Carrboro Police Department. If Dalzell didn't know his rights _before_, he sure as hell knows them now.

4. To address a point made by Jean Bolduc in her column (Tuesday) in the Herald, specifically the point that the Miranda warning is no barrier to eliciting a confession from a suspect. Hallelujah, Jean! You've just made the argument that the civil rights bar makes. Reading a suspect his or her rights _should_ be no barrier to obtaining a legal confession, but clearly the police don't believe that. If they believed as you do (as they should), then why wouldn't they have read him his rights right off the bat, thereby making it all nice and legal? Unfortunately, in case after case exploring the aspects of police procedure affected by the Miranda decision these last 40-odd years, it's clear that many police officers believe the Miranda warning _is_ a barrier, and something to try to subvert or work around.

5. In the last several days, I've heard a number of testimonials from attorneys who have praised officers of the Carrboro Police Department, especially some the older and higher-ranking detectives, for their integrity, intelligence, and knowledge of the law. These attorneys have expressed some distress about _this_ case, in that it seems so out-of-keeping with the professionalism that has marked the Carrboro Police Department in the past. Depending on how much you think reputations matter in law enforcement, this might be another reason for the Aldermen to set the record straight with their department.

6. Finally, one thing that has gone unreported is the fact (reported to me -- I wasn't there) that quite a number of Carrboro police officers showed up for the hearing on Monday in their uniforms, and sat in the rows immediately behind the defense table and the defendant. The courtroom bailiff decided this was too provocative – some others have said threatening – and he made them move. (Interestingly, there were other Carrboro police officers in the room who did not join the Blue Line behind the defense table; these other officers are some of those I've heard routinely praised for their professionalism.) I'd like to know who organized that little demonstration, and who it was who thought it a good idea. How many of those officers were on the clock, I wonder?

I share Ruby's concern about the involvement of Carl Fox. Either he shares culpability in this or the police seriously abused their access to his stationary. The last time stationary was misused by a public official in the area, it resulted in the resignation of the person involved.

I also think Duncan is on the money calling for the Aldermen to address this. I was disturbed a few weeks ago to read Alex Zaffron's support for the police actions

[“I'm thrilled that our police appear to have gotten the guy who killed my friend Debbie Key. I know there have been some questions about their approach, but I think it was just good, smart police work.” CH News 1/2/05]

I hope Alex will let us know that he has rethought his initial reaction in light of Barber's ruling.

I agree with Fred:

"Fox acknowledged Tuesday that he gave Carrboro investigators a piece of his office stationery before they went to arrest Dalzell, but said he did not ask them what they planned to do with it. Fox said he did not authorize them to sign his name on the document. ":

This is the version the police related to me too. So Fox and the Carrboro police are consistent here.

But I think Fox is in on it, in the sense that - though he didn't know the exact content of the letter - he must have known it would be used in some fashion to elicit a confession.

Fred, do you really believe that the District Attorney would give the police a piece of blank stationary without asking what they would do with it? Do you think he is that stupid or irresponsible? I don't belive that for a second.

This is why I think he is letting the police take the fall for his mistake, which just adds to my questions about his integrity and judgement.

The police clearly did it with his approval? Not according to him.

In a December 14 H-S article, he says:

Fox acknowledged Tuesday that he gave Carrboro investigators a piece of his office stationery before they went to arrest Dalzell, but said he did not ask them what they planned to do with it. Fox said he did not authorize them to sign his name on the document.

But while Fox said police faked his signature, the district attorney said he would not press charges against the officer or officers responsible.

It's not forgery in the true sense of the law," Fox said. "There's no criminal intent. It's basically signing my name to a document without my authorization."

Fox also said officers are allowed to use deceit while questioning suspects.

In a Dec 18 CHN article, he says:


Orange-Chatham District Attorney Carl Fox said he was advised of the plan, though he did not have all the specifics. He said he knew officers planned to delay telling Dalzell what he was charged with and advising him of his rights. Fox said the method of investigation is a police matter and “it is not part of my duty to advise [police] on arrest procedures.”

As to whether the officers' actions were legal, Fox said “That is for a judge to decide. That is why we are having this hearing.”

I think the important thing here is not that the scheme itself but the lack of a Miranda warning. It's perfectly acceptable legally (and I would argue morally) for the police to lie like this. Unless the DA planned for there to be no Miranda warning the fault really does rest on the police.

I think the police really screwed up here, but it's the job of Carl Fox (the district attorney) to know that this action would be illegal and ultimately unsucessful in convicting this murderer. Since he gave them his stationary to use, we have to assume he knew what the police's plan was (maybe he even helped develop the plan). So how did the D.A. think this was a good, legal approach? And why is he now disclaiming it, when the police clearly did it with his approval?

This is a perfect example of why law enforcement officers should be extremely vigilant about protecting civil rights and liberties. When they don't, it leads to criminals gettings away!

But I am most concerned about Carl Fox' role in this. It seems he made an error in judgement, is not owning up to it, and is letting the Carrboro police take the blame for his mistake.

As the guy (fool?) who bought the Dalzell house after they had lived in it, I have commented at length on this on my own blog.


I guess my thought for today is this: I don't know how long the police can continue to argue that they disagree with the Judge's decision and they still think they did the right thing. It's pretty clear by now that they didn't follow the law.

The version of events (and I believe these to be the true account) that happened over the course of the arrest and interrigation of Andrew Dalzell are greatly different from what was described to the Key family, and to me by police. The scheme that was described always seemed problematic, but possibly workable (the phony Carl Fox letter - in what was described to me, it was never read to him, it was never placed in front of him; it just "coincidentally" happened to be situated in the back of the squad car where Dalzell was placed). When it came out in court that there was a fake warrent, and that the Miranda rights had not been given it rapidly became apparent that this was a screw up.

I know it is terribly frustrating to the Key family (it is frustrating to me - I have waffled back and forth on this one), and I fully understand why - for now - they have rallied behind the police and the D.A. (what else did they have to cling too?)

It is odd. In the first year of the investigation, the Keys were very critical of police. They were mostly upset because the police never got a search warrent for the Dalzell house. The police argued that, because Debbie was seen with Dalzell at his car, there was sufficent cause to search the vehicle (which they did), but there was nothing to suggest Key was ever at the house. The police felt (though there was division on this point) that any evidence obtained from a search of the house would be thrown out in court.

So if they were so attuned to the law in that matter, why did they later become so reckless? I think they became frustrated and impatient and whatever voices on the force that had initially suggested to search the house - despite not having legal cause - eventually won out.

The irony here is that Carl Fox has never pursued the death penalty but is eager to use the threat of death to obtain a confession. Go figure!

The death penalty has no place in a civilized society.

It's a little off-topic, but no, it does not. Let's be blunt: if you support the death penalty, you want to kill someone. The courts and prisons are only working as proxies for your desires. Anyone who wants to kill someone for killing someone else needs to look within themselves. Consider: what would Jesus do?

I don't agree with the Fox's decision to provide a blank letterhead to CPD it only invited them to abuse the image of his office. I also believe that the media is making a bigger deal about the differences of opinion on what Fox and CPD have about the case. It amounts to the repeating a misunderstanding (nearly useless after the fact). Fox probably thought he was clear and was talking like a lawyer (not plain English) and the CPD simply heard what they wanted to and did what they thought was appropriate. CPD was most likely motivated by a desire to discover a body that has been missing for some time. From the descriptions I've read in the papers, it's sounds like CPD was over-zealous but not abusive to the suspect.

None of these questionable actions rise to the level that persons should lose their jobs. Reprimanded, maybe. You have to remember that they were dealing with a reluctant witness/suspect.

I still cling to my belief that CPD needs to review/revise their procedures and advise the public on what actions they will take. Let's not put the cart in front of the horse and demand resignations or jail time for good people. I don't expect perfection from these persons and they weren't intentionally abusing their authority; they were trying to solve a murder and doing what they believed was their duty. That work sometimes requires them to mislead suspects into telling them the truth. No one is questioning the truthfulness of the confession here either.

Jack, your point is well made. Fox tries to be politically correct. Yes, he's in an elected office. Could we benefit from more assertive public officials? Maybe. Fox obviously didn't make the right call here or express what should be done strongly enough with CPD before they interrogated their suspect.

Mark K, As for the murderer named Simpson who murdered Kristen Lodge Miller you can find more information about him at the NCDOC website. You will not that he has a long record of violent infractions during his incarceration.



Terry Buckner commented that “The death penalty has no place in a civilized society”, obviously Buckner never crossed paths with someone like Simpson. Simpson's victim was shot 5 times (in the head) while she was jogging in Chapel Hill. I would suggest that no civilized society allows an offender like Simpson future opportunities to harm other innocent persons. DOC records suggest that he will never stop trying until he is dead. Murderers aren't civilized persons; sometimes our best prisons can't contain vicious murderers.


Interested persons should also note that we have more proven murderers who have been released (currently on probation or parole) from North Carolina prisons after serving sentences for 1st or 2nd degree murder than we do on death row. That's hardly a sign of a civilized society. Our Chapel Hill-Carrboro officials just don't understand what murder does… or how to cope with it (most of the time). It's an intellectual or academic argument about other persons they don't know, for them (i.e. “won't happen to me”). For as long as we have prisons in someone else's back yard, our politically correct leadership will continue to believe that we can rehabilitate, incarcerate and medicate all murderers.

Has the case in question (Andrew Dalzell's murdering of Deborah Leigh Key) added to North Carolina's problems? I think so.



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