The judge ruled last week that the alleged confession of Massachusetts teen Philip Chism in the murder of his teacher in 2013 cannot be used at trial. Chism’s defense attorneys argued that the police coerced their client, who was 14 at the time, into making detailed statements about the murder, despite invoking his right to remain silent. In addition, his mother invoked his right to an attorney, but her requests were ignored. Prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to convince the judge that Chism and his mother never “absolutely” invoked the right to an attorney. This means that the cell phone evidence obtained after the confession is also inadmissible. Chism, 16, is accused of raping and killing his math teacher, Colleen Ritzer, in a bathroom in Danvers High School. Her body was discovered in a wooded area near the school.
The judge ruled that it was “readily apparent” that Chism’s mother wanted an attorney to be present when her minor son was questioned. The police ignored her requests. The judge also said it was obvious that Chism wasn’t paying attention when his Miranda rights were read to him.
Ritzer’s family said they are still confident that prosecutors have the right defendant. Chism is charged as an adult with murder, aggravated rape, and armed robbery.
“Our family is grateful to the many members of law enforcement who tirelessly searched for our daughter and sister, Colleen. We respect the court ruling and we are confident that law enforcement acted responsibly and lawfully,” the Ritzer family said in a statement given to NBC News, “We are also confident in the ability of the District Attorney’s Office to successfully prosecute the individual charged with this horrific crime so that justice is served for Colleen and our family.”
The 48-page decision came after days of arguments and testimony regarding the confession and other pieces of evidence. Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy concluded that Chism had willingly talked to police in the town of Topsfield on the night of the killing, calmly answering questions and even correcting officers at various points. But, when he was taken to Danvers Police station and interrogated, he grew uncomfortable and hostile. He twice indicated he didn’t want to speak to police, but they continued questioning him. He also stopped being “fully engaged” and did not appreciate the seriousness of what officers were saying, including the reading of his Miranda rights.
The judge has allowed statements made by Chism at the Topsfield Police station. He also admitted items of evidence gathered at Danvers High School, as well as those seized from Chism’s pockets and backpack. These items include Ritzer’s ID and credit cards, a box cutter, and women’s underwear.
Chism has pled not guilty. Chism’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 7.