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Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

You're Gonna Kill That Girl: Natavia Lowery's Confession May Be Inadmissible in Future Linda Stein Murder Case

On October 30, celebrity realtor and former Ramones manager Linda Stein was murdered, and on Friday police though that they had cracked the case.  Detectives had interviewed more than 60 people, but they finally caught a break when Stein's former assistant, Natavia Lowery, contacted them to complain about reporters outside her Williamsburg apartment.

Detective Kevin Walla then took Lowery to a Williamsburg diner, where Lowery confessed; she later provided another confession at a lower Manhattan precinct.  Lowery told Walla that she snapped when Stein made racially-charged comments to her, blew marijuana smoke at her, and waived a weighted exercise bar in her face.  Lowery admitted to grabbing the bar and killing Stein by striking her with it six or seven times.

If Lowery's attoreny has his way, however, the confession will never find its way into court.  Her attorney, Gilbert Parris, claims that Lowery's confession should be deemed inadmissible because he had previously told police that Lowery was not to be interviewed if he was not present.

Without all of the facts of the case, it is difficult to determine whether Parris' argument will be successful.  Looking at New York precedent, however, it looks as if there is a decent chance the confessions will be deemed inadmissible.

In People v. Skinner, 52 N.Y.2d 24 (N.Y. 1980), the Court of Appeals of New York (the equivalent of most states' supreme courts) granted a defendant's motion to suppress his confessions.  Diane Snell had been found dead and police immediately focused their attention on the defendant, leading to repeated instances of questioning. See Id. at 26-27.  As a result, the defendant's attorney told the police not to question the defendant unless he was present. See id. at 27.

Police later approached the defendant when his attorney was not present and told him that he had to appear at a lineup. See id.  During the ensuing conversation, the defendant, after being given his Miranda warnings, made several damaging statements regarding his involvement in Snell's death. See id.  The Court of Appeals of New York found that these statements were inadmissible because the defendant's attorney was not present. See id.  The court found that the defendant did not have to be in custody for his statements to be inadmissible, and it concluded that the motivations of the police officers were irrelevant. See id.

Thus, assuming that Lowery's attorney is being accurate, and unless there are significant facts of which I am unaware, Lowery's statements will likely be inadmissible against her should she be put on trial.

-CM

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