Murder trial to proceed with woman’s admission she wanted husband ‘hit’

… Judge rules state may seek death penalty against Karla Porter in fatal shooting …

By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

7:57 PM EST, February 1, 2011

A 10-hour police interview with a woman accused of orchestrating her husband’s murder last year will be admitted in its entirety at the defendant’s trial, a Baltimore County Circuit judge has ruled.

Karla L. Porter, who initially claimed to be uninvolved in the death of her husband, William R. Porter, on March 1, 2010, at the gas station they owned in Towson, sought in a pretrial hearing last month to have the interview kept from the jury on the grounds that she had not been properly advised of her right to legal counsel. In the videotaped interview, held five days after her husband’s killing, Porter said she had wanted him “hit,” but not killed.

The judge, Robert E. Cahill Jr., said that from a careful viewing of the interview and a reading of its transcript, it was clear that Porter had made a “free and deliberate choice” to waive her right to remain silent and discuss the case with two detectives. The judge rejected Porter’s contention that she had insisted on her right to an attorney “in such a way that the detectives were obliged to cease their colloquy with her.”

Cahill also dismissed Porter’s motion to deny prosecutors the right to seek the death penalty in her case.

During questioning by the detectives, Porter acknowledged that the man who went to the gas station the morning her 49-year-old husband died did so at her request. She gave the man $400 to administer a beating to her spouse, she said, in retaliation for his having hit her with a crutch a few days earlier. Porter expressed surprise that the man had pulled out a gun and shot her husband in the face.

At one point in the interview, Porter said, “I guess I need to speak to an attorney then, right? I just don’t know what else to say or do.” The lead detective, Sekou Hinton, did not respond directly, according to the transcript, saying that he wanted to “listen to your version of the events that happened.” Later, Porter asked, “Should I call an attorney?”

“You may,” Hinton replied. “You have every right to a lawyer. I told you that before, all right?” The detective then offered to call an attorney on her behalf, and when she persisted in asking whether she should seek counsel, Hinton said he could not “make decisions for you.”

In his decision, the judge wrote that any request for legal representation “must be unambiguous and unequivocal,” and that Porter’s “ruminations about an attorney” did not meet that test. “There was nothing unfair, deceptive, coercive or misleading about anything Detective Hinton said to the defendant before these passages or immediately after each reference to ‘attorney.’ ”

Porter, a 48-year-old mother of two, is scheduled for trial April 4 on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder. Walter P. Bishop Jr., the accused triggerman, is set for trial June 6.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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