Accused Murderer Was "Too Drunk" For Confession to Count

By Will Godfrey 12/09/11

A murder trial hinges on whether a drunk could legally consent to give up his right to silence.

Can drunks give consent to waive the Fifth?
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A man charged with a savage murder in New Mexico is challenging the evidence of his videotaped confession, claiming he was too drunk to knowingly give up his right to be silent. Donovan King, 22, and his friend Justin Mark, 23, are charged with beating 40-year-old Kevin Lossiah to death in Farmington on May 29th, leaving his body in a pool of blood with the skull and brain exposed. But King said in court that he drank three one-fifth-sized bottles of vodka and smoked marijuana that day, and defense lawyers argue his rights were violated during the interview after his arrest. The video of the interview shows Detective Paul Martinez advising King of his right to remain silent. King indicates he understands, but also tells Martinez, "Not want to talk at the moment." Defense attorney Cosme Ripol claims this invokes the Fifth Amendment: "If it's a razor-edge question, the court should err on the side of protecting the Constitution." But prosecutors say King was "lucid and articulate" in the video, and that intoxication alone isn't enough to throw out a confession. "I'm upset they can think they can use any excuse to get out of this," said Nora Lossiah, the victim's weeping mother.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.