According to the Sun-Sentinel, Robert Oulton, 62, is accused of beating his wife to death in Pompano Beach, Florida. Oulton is being held without bond. Detectives from the Broward Sheriff’s Office found Yvonne Oulton’s body abandoned in the family van near a warehouse district.
The Broward County Medical Examiners Office determined that Oulton’s wife died from blunt force trauma to the head. According to the arrest affidavit, Oulton brutally beat his wife by striking her in the head with an object about ten times.
Oulton allegedly said, “I turned evil; I woke up and remember everything,” while sitting in a BSO interview room with his son.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Oulton told police that “his wife drove him to Isle Casino & Racing and dropped him off in a gravel parking lot at about 7 p.m. Sunday.” Investigators claim that they have obtained video surveillance from the casino that contradicts this statement.
Oulton’s son told police that his father had not heard from his wife and asked his son to pick him up and help him go look for her. After directing his son to the warehouse area, the two “discovered” Yvonne’s body in the family van.
Clearly, Oulton’s plan did not work out so well.
First and foremost, bludgeoning someone to death is extremely messy. I would not be surprised to learn that police recovered Yvonne’s blood from underneath her husband’s fingernails or that articles of his clothing were recovered with spatterings of her blood all over them. Moreover, it is entirely possible that the murder weapon was discarded in a place where it may be found by police. If recovered, forensic analysts may be able to obtain latent fingerprints off the object that can be compared to samples obtained from Oulton.
However, the single most important piece of evidence in this case that is working against Oulton and is working in favor of prosecutors is Oulton’s statement in the BSO interview room.
Even if Oulton’s behavior and excuses regarding his whereabouts at the time of the murder were questionable, nothing screams “Guilty!” louder than admitting you “turned evil” when you thought no one was listening. While the details regarding what was said in that room are unknown at this time, I have little doubt that Oulton failed to realize he was being recorded when he said he “turned evil.”
Not only was the statement utterly incriminating, I also expect it to be admissible in Court.
There is absolutely no expectation of privacy in a police station, not to mention in a police interview room. Moreover, the statements seems to have been made outside the presence of the officers. Since the statements were made by the defendant on his own accord, as opposed to being made in response to police questioning while in custody, Oulton’s right to remain silent and right to counsel were never triggered.
Let me explain.
When a person is in police custody and the police wish to interrogate that person, the law says the police must first advise the subject that he or she has a right to remain silent and a right to counsel and that if they cannot afford counsel, one will be appointed for them. They must also advise that person that he or she may stop answering questions at any time and may request a lawyer at any time.
If the subject waives these rights and agrees to answer questions without a lawyer, then all subsequent statements are admissible, unless and until the subject changes his mind and decides he or she wants a lawyer or wishes to terminate questioning. Any and all statements made after a person invokes his or her right to remain silent or right to counsel are completely inadmissible.
In Oulton’s case, the statements were not made in response to police questioning. It seems as though he and his son were alone in the room and Oulton blurted out something he should have kept to himself.
However, there is one very big exception that Oulton’s defense lawyers may want to look at.
If Oulton’s son was acting at the behest of the police, meaning, if he was sent in the room by the police to get his father talking, then Oulton’s son was acting as an agent of the officers. If this is the case, then Oulton’s right to remain silent and right to counsel would have been triggered.
Police cannot circumvent the Constitution simply by sending in a non-officer to do the questioning for them.
However, if the conversation between Oulton and his son was strictly between them, and not at the behest of investigators, then the statements are likely admissible.
This distinction is extremely important for Oulton because it may make the difference between the death penalty and winning his case.
Assuming the statement was excluded from admission in trial, prosecutors would then be forced to make a case based strictly on forensic evidence alone. Without a murder weapon, Oulton’s blood soaked clothing, or other evidence, prosecutors may have difficulty obtaining a conviction or securing the death penalty.
Remember, television forensics are a far cry from the reality that transpires in actual courtrooms.
Again, this analysis assumes the limited information that is presently available. It is entirely possible that additional evidence, whether for or against Oulton, is mounting and will become available down the road.
Regardless, it behooves Oulton to hire the most creative criminal defense lawyer he can find. His is certainly in the fight for his life and a good lawyer may make the difference between life and death. If not, he will certainly require the services of a qualified appellate lawyer.