PITTSFIELD — Potentially incriminating statements made by the city man accused of killing Paul Henry in July 2017 will be admissible, after a judge's ruling last month.
J.C. Chadwell, 40, argued that the information he gave to police was given involuntarily during a Feb. 11, 2018, interview, about three days after his arrest on a murder charge.
According to the seven-page decision issued July 10 from Judge John Agostini, that Chadwell agreed to talk to police only after they offered to reduce bail for his sister didn't mean his statements were involuntary. His sister was arrested on allegations that she had given police false information regarding her brother's whereabouts on the night of the shooting.
Henry was found in the street during a large block party on John Street on July 4, 2017, with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A witness told police they saw Chadwell and Henry facing each other, then they heard a gunshot, and saw Henry grab his stomach and drop to the ground.
The witness said they saw smoke near Chadwell, who then ran from the scene and into nearby Durant Park. That same witness also said they saw Henry get up from the ground and start to run before collapsing in the street.
Chadwell was interviewed by police July 28 and denied being involved in the shooting, saying he was in Hudson, N.Y.
There was insufficient evidence at that time to charge Chadwell, and the investigation continued. On Feb. 9, 2018, Chadwell was arrested on a charge of murder in Henry's death.
He was interviewed by police the evening of his arrest, and for a third time Feb. 11. Chadwell sought to have statements given during the third interview suppressed.
According to court records, on Feb. 11, Chadwell, who was in custody, asked to speak to police. Agostini noted in his decision that the interview with Chadwell was conducted properly.
Chadwell's attorney, Jennifer Cox, argued that her client's statements were not volunteered by choice, but were made out of "overriding concern for his sister and the emotional paralysis that it created," according to Agostini's ruling.
The judge ruled that the issue wasn't whether Chadwell admitted more to police than he otherwise would have under the circumstances, but rather whether the interview techniques were so unfair or oppressive as to deprive Chadwell of his free will.
Agostini cited 1994 case law, which determined that a motive to protect one's mother, for example, was not sufficient to find a confession involuntary.
He noted that, during the interview, police did not use any techniques disallowed by the court, including providing false evidence of guilt, minimizing the seriousness of the offense or convincing Chadwell that a confession would result in a lenient sentence.
The judge ruled that Chadwell voluntarily waived his Miranda rights.
Chadwell has pleaded not guilty to murder and illegal gun-possession charges in Henry's death. The incident is believed to have stemmed from a dispute between the two men in April 2012 over money Henry owed to Chadwell.
Henry allegedly grabbed a machete and swung it at Chadwell, cutting his ear. Chadwell responded by breaking a window in Henry's car as he drove away, according to court files. Both men were treated for injuries suffered during the fight, but neither was cooperative with investigators.
A final pretrial hearing in Chadwell's case is scheduled for Oct. 15, and it is expected to go to trial in November.
If convicted, Chadwell faces life in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by attorney Brett Vottero, who has been hired by the office of Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington to assist with a number of Superior Court homicide cases.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.