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There's no town 'square' here, man

Multiple personality disorder makes "Mirandizing" criminals a difficult task


Posted with permission:

The Report, February 3, 2003, p. 3

There's no town 'square' here, man

By COLBY COSH

You've seen it on TV a thousand times: some shady character on Law & Order gets booked by the cops and read his "Miranda rights"—or "Mirandized" ("You have the right to remain silent..."). In real life, confessions or other evidence can be thrown out of a U.S. court if they are obtained before a suspect has been properly Mirandized. But even the most over-the-top TV show never saw someone like Tessa Haley of Helena, Montana, coming.

Helena cops received a call on the evening of September 2 from a woman identifying herself as "Martha." When they went to the given address, they found Ms. Haley seated at her computer with blood on her clothes and a surgical mask on her face. She had never heard of anybody named Martha, but the police booked her anyway, informing her of her Miranda rights to remain silent and retain an attorney's services. In the words of the Helena Independent Record's Carolynn Bright, "a change" then came over Tessa/Martha. It "culminated in Haley growling at the officer and demanding to know what was going on. Then, she identified herself as 'Martha,' and when asked by the officer if she knew the victim in the case, said, 'I stabbed her.'" At about the same time, the victim turned up in hospital with a two-inch wound in her back.

The reader can probably see where this is going. Ms. Haley was arrested, jailed and brought to a preliminary hearing early in January. There, her lawyers argued that her confession was inadmissible. Yes, Tessa Haley had been properly Mirandized, they admitted—but "Martha," one of her multiple personalities, had not, and it was "Martha" who admitted to the crime. ("Martha" was, in fact, full of unsolicited detail, stating in the hospital that she had intended to kill her victim but could not finish the job before the victim ran away.) "It is inconceivable that one personality could relinquish the right to have an attorney present, before questioning, to the detriment of other personalities," said public defender Randi Hood. Put it that way, and it seems positively astonishing that the Framers of the Constitution did not foresee such a debacle.

Helena district court judge Thomas Honzel agreed with the defence's argument and threw out the confession January 6. The glum district attorney told the press he will "try to work around" the precedent-setting ruling. At press time, Tessa Haley and her imaginary friends remain locked up, awaiting the January 21 start of their trial. At least one assumes that they will remain locked up—until lawyer Hood figures out a way to keep "Martha" in jail and let the other personalities go free.


Judge: Right to attorney a ‘multiple' choice

By CAROLYNN BRIGHT, Independent Record Staff Writer - 01/07/03


The REPORT
Copyright 2003 United Western Communications Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.


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Posted 2002 12 29