A judge should toss an accused murderer's confession because the suspect gave it under duress after several days of police questioning, a defense attorney said Monday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Attorney Frank Carson went so far as to compare the circumstances of his client's confession to the captivity of Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped when she was 11 and allegedly held captive for 18 years and raped by a couple in an elaborate Antioch compound.
Carson said Russell Jones, accused of murdering Modestan Dena Raley-McCluskey in 1999, was interrogated for seven or eight hours at a time behind locked doors at the Modesto Police Department.
Jones wasn't allowed to leave the room or go to the bathroom without an escort, Carson said. Jones once slept on the floor and was not allowed to go home when he asked to leave, Carson said.
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"I'm not going to say they hit him with a hose," Carson said. "What they taught him was the key to those doors depended on ... his cooperation and ... whether they liked what he said or not. And it's hour after hour after hour."
Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees said Jones went willingly to the Police Department several times over the 10 days of questioning, accepting money from a sergeant who offered to buy him cigarettes and rides from police because he didn't have money for gas.
"Mr. Jones is not a kidnapped victim; he is not a child," Rees said.
In a series of interviews, Jones said he found Raley-McCluskey's body on the bathroom floor of a home they shared on Karen Way, panicked because he had served time for violating federal weapons laws and didn't think anyone would believe he didn't kill her, according to testimony.
Jones admitted burying her body near Groveland, and pointed out the spot to authorities after the district attorney's office wrote a letter saying Jones would be looked at as a cooperative witness unless authorities developed evidence that he killed Raley-McCluskey.
After days of questioning, Jones told detectives he sent the small woman crashing to the floor with a single punch at the end of a long day of drinking. They had been arguing over a bar bill.
Judge Marie Silveira will rule on whether the confession stays in evidence at a hearing Nov. 9. Also at issue is whether Jones will go to trial for murder or a lesser charge.
Carson said the confession, if true, means the incident was nothing more than an accident. He said Jones told police Raley-McCluskey began clawing at his eyes during the heated argument.
"He struck her in self-defense," Carson said. "What you have at worst was really an excusable homicide."
Rees said Jones' previous descriptions to police were that he found Raley-McCluskey "severely beaten," like someone "beat the hell out of her."
Jones said he rented a carpet cleaner and used bleach on the floors and walls of the bathroom after making "extraordinary efforts" to bury her body.
"That's murder," Rees said.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.