Bible-bashing US cops get murder confession from SA man

2015-04-02 07:56

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Durban - US police used religion and the Bible to badger a confession out of a South African man accused of murdering four people in the United States, according to court papers.

In papers submitted to the Supreme Court of New Mexico, Muziwokuthula Madondo's lawyers have accused law enforcement officers of ignoring his request to remain silent and to have an attorney when he was arrested four years ago in Texas.

"Because Madondo's confession only resulted from police ignoring his attempts to invoke his rights, misleading him about them, badgering him and preying upon his special vulnerabilities (particularly those relating to religion) to extract his admission, his statement was not voluntarily given," Chief Public defender Jorge A Alvarado has claimed in the papers known as an "answer brief".

Rights violated

The papers, a copy of which is in's possession, are aimed at upholding a ruling by District Court Judge Albert J Mitchell.

The judge ordered the suppression of Madondo's confessions following his arrest on March 27, 2011, in the town of Conroe, near Houston, Texas.

Last year Mitchell found that Madondo's state and federal rights were violated after his requests for an attorney, as well as his request not to speak to the police, had been ignored.

Madondo is accused of shooting dead father and son Bobby Gonzales, 57, and Gabriel Baca, 37, in a hotel in Tucumcari, New Mexico, before fleeing to Texas in March 2011.

It is his videotaped confession that the attorney general wants a jury to hear when Madondo does ultimately stand trial later this year for the Tucumcari murders.

Police interviewed Madondo on three consecutive days starting with the day of his arrest, and each day he told them more until he allegedly confessed to the murders of the four people.

The argument in the Supreme Court of New Mexico focuses on whether he had in fact given up his rights to silence and his right to have an attorney present after he had initially insisted on them on March 27.

Alvarado said all questioning should have stopped, but the Texas Rangers and the New Mexico State Police (NMSP) officers interrogating him had simply ignored Madondo and had therefore "unquestionably demeaned" his rights.

Bible used during interrogation

On the second day of questioning Madondo's Bible was brought into the interrogation room.

Alvarado said NSMP officer Matthew Broom told Madondo at one stage that: "I know this, from one person believer to another, you believe this." He taps Madondo's Bible at the same time.

Later Texas Ranger Steve Rayburn urges Madondo to do the right thing.

He and Madondo have a discussion on whether the South African would be going to heaven or hell.

Alvarado claims that Madondo was repeatedly told to read Bible passages because Rayburn told him that "it's the only thing that got your attention".

The interview progressed to a point that, according to Alvarado, Madondo feared he would be spending the rest of his life in prison.

"God put you here for a reason," Rayburn told Madondo and urged him not to fight God's will because he needed to tell the truth to be spiritually free.

Dejected, crying

"Towards the end of the interrogation, Madondo was visibly dejected, crying on and off, making numerous statements about wanting to die, and mumbling and praying to himself," said Alvarado.

He said that Madondo had never waived his right to silence or to an attorney and that Madondo gave up his rights unknowingly and involuntarily as a result of police coercion.

Alvarado also accused Broom of misleading Madondo, when he told him that it did not matter if he spoke to the police first or to his lawyer.

"The officers had him read passages of the Bible, implored him to confess to honour God's will and be redeemed, and prayed with him.

"Without question, the officers here were able to successfully exploit Madondo's religious and psychological vulnerabilities," said Alvarado.

In an answer brief, the attorney general Hector Balderas argued that Madondo knew he was giving up his rights when he decided to talk and did so knowingly and voluntarily.

He said that a discussion about a favourite Bible verse did not amount to interrogation.

It is not known when the Supreme Court of New Mexico will hand down its decision or ask the two legal teams to argue their cases, but by the time he faces a jury in Tucumcari in December, Madondo will know if his confession is to be used against him for the murders of Baca and Gonzales.

Other murders

His confessions to the murders of FirstMerit Bank executive Jacquelyn Hilder and Maritzburg College old boy Zenzele Mdadane in the state of Ohio will not feature in the Tucumcari trial.

But according to the brief-in-chief that was submitted last year by the attorney general to the Supreme Court of New Mexico, Madondo initially claimed he was framed for the murders and tricked into taking possession of the murder weapons.

It was then that Madondo told Rayburn and Broom that: ""A Christian doesn't kill, but in my position... Jesus would have killed in my position."

He then revealed that a friend named "Zen" [Mdadane] and some other men attacked him and sexually assaulted him in New Jersey.

According to the brief-in-chief Madondo described how he purchased a gun, tracked Mdadane down, before luring him to Ohio, and then killed him, leaving his bullet-riddled body in Butler Township where it was ultimately found several days later.

He also described going to FirstMerit Bank executive Jacquelyn Hilder's home in Akron, Ohio where he planned to rob her. When she screamed, Madondo allegedly killed her on October 17, 2011.

It was then that Madondo allegedly described how he had travelled to Tucumcari and the events that led to the death of Baca and Gonzales.

Madondo was originally from Richmond, near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. He emigrated to the US in 2008 to study theology.

While New Mexico does not have the death penalty, he could face the death penalty in Ohio if he is convicted of the two Ohio murders.

When he was arrested, Madondo claimed he wanted the death penalty, according to reports at the time.

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