A Logan County judge ruled Friday that a recorded police interrogation showing Brittany Pilkington appearing to confess to killing her three children can be used in trial.
Lawyers for Pilkington, 24, had requested that her statements to police after the death of her third son in August 2015 be suppressed because her rights were violated in the interview and they said she didn’t understand the context of her discussion with police.
Pilkington, of Bellefontaine, is accused of smothering her sons to death over a 13-month period. Infant Niall died in July 2014, 4-year-old Gavin died in April of last year, and 3-month-old Noah died four months later in August 2015. She faces the death penalty if convicted and is scheduled to go on trial in February.
During a two-day hearing in October Logan County Common Pleas Judge Mark O’Connor reviewed more than four hours of recorded police interviews with Pilkington.
The recordings appears to show the young mother crying and she can be heard telling police she smothered all three sons, covered their faces with blankets and “put pressure” on them for anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.
O’Connor’s decision, released Friday, details several questions the judge weighed in making the decision.
The first was whether Pilkington knowingly waived her right to have an attorney present. She did, O’Connor said, because she signed two separate forms acknowledging that she understood and waived that right.
The second question was whether or not there was any “coercive police activity.” O’Connor decided there was.
“This is due to their length, the fact that five officers over the course of time participated in the interrogation or the polygraph examination, that the interrogation and most damning admissions were made at the end of this lengthy interrogation and after the defendant was yelled at by one officer with the chief of police conducting the confrontational examination,” O’Connor’s decision said.
On the third question, whether the coercive police conduct critically impaired Pilkington’s capacity to give a voluntary statement, O’Connor decided it did not.
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The factors considered were: Pilkington’s age, mental state, past criminal experience; the length, intensity and frequency of the interrogation; and whether there were any deprivations, mistreatment, threats or inducements.
O’Connor wrote there was no direct evidence that Pilkington had any mental deficiencies. He said despite not having any food, water or a bathroom break during the nine hour series of interviews, she remained calm and composed throughout and able to communicate.
“The court finds that the statements made to the police on August 18, 2015 were voluntary,” O’Connor concluded in denying the motion to suppress. Pilkington’s, “will was not overborn nor was her capacity for self-discrimination critically impaired during the conduct of these interviews.”
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