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Espy must have made some pretty incriminating statements while waiting for his lawyer, enough to get a murder charge thrown out.Man's statement thrown out; lack of evidence cited
Prosecutors have dropped a murder charge against Frederick Espy II because of a lack of evidence.
Espy, 25, has claimed he was defending himself when he shot Joseph Thomas Burton on April 3, 2005, at the Club Oasis on Plummer Road.
Espy told Madison County sheriff's investigators he shot Burton in self defense, but he apparently disclosed that information after the deputies informed Espy of his Miranda rights and he had asked that a lawyer be present. Circuit Judge Loyd H. Little declared Espy's statements during the interview as inadmissible in the trial.
Without Espy's statement, the state has insufficient evidence to proceed, Assistant District Attorney Bill Starnes said Monday.
Espy's trial was scheduled to begin Monday before Circuit Judge Loyd H. Little Jr.
The shooting occurred about 3:30 a.m. at the nightclub. Witnesses told deputies Burton was near the door of the club where Espy, then an engineering student at UAH, was handing out fraternity flyers. Espy and Burton began to argue after Espy made a lewd remark about Burton's girlfriend, a witness told the officers.
The two men got into Espy's car where they argued and Burton assaulted Espy, according to Robert Tuten, Espy's lawyer. Espy reached behind the seat, pulled out a .40-caliber pistol and shot Burton, he said.
A grand jury indicted Espy on the charge of murder in May 2006.
"This is one of the best examples of self defense, I've ever seen," Tuten said. A person has a right to defend himself against an assailant who attacks him in the front seat of his car, he said.
During questioning by sheriff's investigators, Espy asked for a lawyer, Tuten said. He made other statements to the officers after the request.
In his motion to suppress those statements, Tuten said the statements the investigators obtained from Espy during the interview were in violation of Espy's privilege against self-incrimination.
In August 2007, Little ruled for the defendant.
"The court has reviewed the video of the defendant's interrogation concerning his involvement in this case," Little wrote in his order. "Based upon the defendant's unambiguous request to have an attorney present during question, the statements made by the defendant are suppressed and shall not be admissible if offered by the state in support of the charge.'
The state appealed Little's ruling to the Alabama Court of Criminal appeals. The appeal was rejected by the appeals court as having been filed after the time limit had expired.
Espy, who was out of jail on a $30,000 bond, is a student at Tuskegee University and is scheduled to graduate in a few months, Tuten said.
The prosecution can again charge Espy with murder in Burton's death at a later date, if there is new evidence.