Shamas denies Bravo defense motion

June 24, 2011 • Local News

Accused murderer Ramon Bravo appeared in District Court, Wednesday, after defense attorney S. Douglas Jones Witt filed an in limine motion that would have prevented the State from presenting the posthumous testimony given by Donald Prince in a 2006 civil suit bought by the Amos family against Bravo for the wrongful death of Susan Amos- Bravo.

Bravo is charged with first-degree murder for the May 2003 slaying of Amos- Bravo. Family members discovered Amos-Bravo’s body at her home at 1613 W. Walnut St. Medical investigators determined the cause of death to be a combination of strangula tion and multiple stab wounds to the neck.

The testimony in question came from an alleged jailhouse confession Bravo made to Prince, who died not long after the Amos family won its civil case. Jones Witt argued that Prince’s testimony, where Bravo admitted to the killing, should not be admitted since he was not represented by counsel during the civil case.

Jones Witt said its presentation in the criminal case violated Bravo’s Sixth Amendment rights that allows “the accused to confront witnesses.” Jones Witt asserted, “The previous (2003 criminal) case was ultimately dismissed due to problems with evidence, including DNA evidence.” Jones Witt questioned if a full and complete crossexamination had occurred in the civil case, and now that Prince was dead, he said that he, as counsel, would not be able to conduct a cross-examination.

He referred to the testimony as hearsay, which should be excluded. Special Prosecutor, District Attorney Matt Chandler, countered that according to the government, “The test is the opportunity for full and complete cross rather than the use of the full and complete cross.” He cited a case where the Supreme Court declined to question the effectiveness of the crossexamination.

Chandler said that Bravo gave a thorough opening statement in the civil case. Chandler referred to Bravo as confident in his conduct during the trial. He added that the right for the assistance of counsel does not exist in civil matters. Chandler argued that Bravo had the opportunity to review evidence in the civil matter.

“He had been fully a part of the interrogatory and disposition process.” Then Chandler reviewed Bravo’s cross-examination of Prince where Bravo asked if Prince knew the repercussions of being a snitch.

Chandler repeated portions of Prince’s testimony where Bravo admitted, “He, by way of a secret entrance, got into the home. He waited for Susan to return. … He strangled her with the cord to the iron, and he was so angry he stabbed her over 150 times.”

Judge Ralph D. Shamas had questions about Bravo’s competency. Chandler said that there have been on claims of incompetency. In the end, Shamas denied the motion in limine, ruling that the testimony could be heard. Shamas said, “I admit I am old school (about constitutional rights). … My one real concern is if I am expected to rule on the effectiveness of cross. I’m not in the position to do this.”

He pointed out that the same Sixth Amendment that gave the defendant the right to counsel also gave him the right of selfcounsel. He warned the special prosecutor that he would not be allowed to embellish the testimony.

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