A district court judge has ruled a Faribault police investigator questioning a murder suspect about her boyfriend’s stabbing death violated her rights.
In an order filed July 2, Judge Christine Long found that incriminating statements Judana Catherine Williams made to the investigator in the hours after Michael Bongers’ Sept. 7, 2018 stabbing can’t be used unless Williams contradicts herself during trial.
Long determined that during the first of three portions of the interrogation, Williams should have been read her Miranda rights. Though prosecutors argued that Williams was not in custody at the time, Long found that the circumstances surrounding the interview would have led a reasonable person to believe they were under arrest, meaning the investigator was required to read Williams her rights.
Williams was questioned in an interview room at the Faribault police station. And while the closed door was unlocked, Williams wasn’t given that information.
The judge also suppressed two other conversations between Williams and the investigator after she was read her rights.
“Although the defendant’s question, ‘Yeah, do I need a lawyer (inaudible)?’ is not a clear and unequivocal request for counsel, it is subject to the interpretation that defendant desired to deal with police through counsel,” Long wrote. “Rather than stop and clarify defendant’s ambiguous statements, as required …, Detective Alexander resumed questioning defendant. This court finds that by failing to stop and clarify but proceed with continued questioning, Detective Alexander violated the defendant’s rights….”
Long did not suppress Williams’ statements to the first officer on the scene as defense attorneys asked, agreeing with prosecutors that the officer’s questions were made merely to assess the scene.
Though the interaction between that officer and Williams was brief, Williams reportedly said that she and Bongers were alone in the home and following a fight “he ran up on” her. A knife was found on the floor next to Bongers, who was covered in blood, according to court records. When police arrived, Williams was reportedly kneeling next to Bongers, applying pressure to his chest wounds.
A plea hearing in the case is scheduled for July 30.