Court: Killer did not clearly invoke right to remain silent

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a Sallisaw, Okla., man’s conviction and life sentence in the slaying of a Kibler man, saying Fort Smith police did not violate his right to remain silent because he did not clearly invoke that right.

Brandon Clark Fritts, now 31, was convicted in Sebastian County Circuit Court of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jamie Lee Czeck, 36, whose body was found in an alley in Fort Smith on Jan. 3, 2012. Fort Smith police testified at the trial that Fritts, who has a lengthy criminal history, admitted he killed Czeck to silence him.

Fritts argued on appeal that a statement he made to police on Jan. 30, 2012, while he was being held in the Sequoyah County jail in Sallisaw should not have been admitted at his trial.

Fritts said he told detectives he had already told them everything he knew in a previous interview, and that after he made that statement a detective showed him the murder weapon, which prompted him to resume talking. He argued that he had effectively invoked his right to remain silent but that the detective effectively continued the interrogation by showing him the murder weapon.

In its unanimous opinion Thursday, the Supreme Court said that both it and the U.S. Supreme Court have held that an invocation of the right to remain silent must be unambiguous and unequivocal so that police are not required to guess whether it has been invoked.

“We simply cannot say that appellant’s statement that he had already told officers all that he knew was an unambiguous and unequivocal invocation of the right to remain silent,” Justice Donald Corbin wrote in the opinion. “A statement that you had already told officers everything you know in no way indicated an unwillingness to answer further questions.”