By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – A Bell County judge ruled Thursday that nearly all of the written and videotaped statements given by a Harker Heights man charged with the murder of a 26-year-old man at Hallmark Inn in Killeen last year will be admissible in his trial later this year.
Judge Martha Trudo of the 264th District Court made her ruling after evaluating several hours of videotape in which Joe Castillo, 29, was questioned about his involvement in the shooting death of Joshua Montague while Castillo was in custody of the Killeen Police Department.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Waldman said in his closing argument Thursday that Castillo confesses to being the shooter in the video, as he does in his two written statements.
"At the end, he actually confesses to shooting Josh Montague," Waldman argued to Trudo "Everything was done properly by police."
Castillo's defense attorney, Steve Walden, filed a motion to suppress two videotaped statements and two written statements given by Castillo during the two-day period when Castillo talked about his role in the shooting.
During a hearing March 18, Walden argued that KPD detectives failed to observe Castillo's rights during the questioning when he asked for a lawyer, and requested that Trudo rule all the statements to be inadmissible in Castillo's upcoming trial.
Walden showed a tape spliced together, which included brief segments from portions of Castillo's questioning, taken from two separate interviews, each of which lasted about two hours. In the segments shown, Castillo emphatically requests to see a lawyer several times, and it appeared to directly contradict the testimony KPD Detective Sharon Brank gave only moments earlier.
The defense argued that the moment a lawyer is requested, for any reason, law enforcement officers are required to end the interview.
Those requests were not granted, Walden said, and Castillo was not allowed to have a lawyer present during the remainder of the questioning. Walden said that represents a clear violation of his rights.
Trudo ruled that only the remainder of that June 14 video is inadmissible in trial, saying that she believed Castillo should have been granted access to an attorney during the remainder of his questioning. That portion of the video took place toward the end of an hourlong interview.
The next day, Castillo gave a second taped interview, during which he gave two handwritten statements. Trudo ruled both the videotaped statement given the next day, June 15, along with the signed written statements, will be admissible during the trial.
The ruling exonerates detectives Sharon Brank and Karl Ortiz, who were present during the interviews and also testified Thursday. Waldman said in his closing argument that the second video of Castillo is far more important, as it shows Castillo confessed to the shooting.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568