KEY LARGO -- The judge presiding over the case against alleged Key Largo husband-killer Denise Bozarth has thrown out the confession she provided to detectives on the day of her arrest.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Miles Wright and Monroe County Sheriff's Office Detective Jason Madnick were obligated to cease interviewing Bozarth when she asked for an attorney about an hour-and-a-half into the March 15, 2012, interview and just moments before she made her confession, Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia ruled Monday.
"[T]he defendant had a right to have an attorney present during questioning at no cost to her, and when she inquired the officers were obligated to inform her of said right," Garcia wrote in the order.
He ruled that anything Bozarth said prior to that request is admissible at trial. Wright and Madnick did read Bozarth her rights prior to beginning the interview, which was conducted in the Panhandle town of Defuniak Springs, where Bozarth lived when she was arrested. But the key moment, when she admitted to killing husband Ed Bozarth in the early summer of 2007, came later during the interview.
The decaying body of her husband, who was 62 at the time of his death, was found on July 1, 2007, in the engine room of the boat he shared with Denise at Key Largo's Gilbert's Marina. His head had been bashed in and his body was tied up and covered with a canvas sail storage bag.
Bozarth's attorney, Assistant Monroe County Public Defender Jerome Gilhooley, made the case that the confession should be suppressed at a Dec. 17 hearing. According to Garcia's ruling, the crucial moment in Wright's and Madnick's approximately two-hour interrogation came as Wright was telling Bozarth that the story she had provided to that point simply didn't make sense.
"Can I talk to an attorney first?" Bozarth interrupted.
"Yeah, I mean obviously it's something you're going to have to work out with your attorney," countered Wright.
That response, Garcia ruled, fell short of the officers' requirement to provide Bozarth with a straightforward answer relating to her rights.
"The answer was at worse gamesmanship, at best evasive," he wrote.
During the Dec. 17 hearing, Assistant State Attorney Demetrious Efstratiou argued that Bozarth stopped short of making a clear request for an attorney.
Instead, her request was an ambiguous one, he said, citing case law which states that ambiguous requests don't trigger a requirement for officers to stop the interview.
But Garcia ruled that Bozarth's request for an attorney was "unequivocal."