A judge has refused to suppress the statements Ali-Mohamed Mohamud made to police in the hours after an officer found Mohamud’s 10-year-old stepson beaten to death last April in the basement of his Guilford Street home.
State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns also will allow evidence collected from the home and Mohamud’s workplace to be admitted in his upcoming murder trial, expected to begin Monday.
“No force, duress or promises were made to the defendant to induce the statements and admissions,” Burns said in his suppression ruling.
Mohamud’s written police statement has not been read aloud in court. But a prosecutor previously told a City Court judge that Mohamud admitted beating his stepson to death.
Jury selection for the murder trial began Thursday and is expected to conclude today.
Prosecutor Thomas M. Finnerty, chief counsel in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, told prospective jurors that Abdifatah Mohamud was struck about 70 times with a hardwood baker’s rolling pin. The blows to his head and body caused the “devastating amount of injuries that boy sustained,” Finnerty said.
Authorities have said the blows shattered the boy’s skull.
Defense lawyer Kevin W. Spitler asked prospective jurors if they had the courage to render an unpopular not-guilty verdict, like the one by jurors who acquitted Dr. James G. Corasanti of manslaughter and hit-run charges earlier this year.
“That’s the kind of courage I’m going to ask you to demonstrate,” Spitler told the jurors.
Before Spitler questioned the prospective jurors, Burns had said it was OK for the defense lawyer to refer to the Corasanti jury “as long as it’s measured.”
Finnerty did not object to Spitler mentioning the public reaction to the Corasanti verdict as long as Spitler did not specifically mention Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III or anybody else by name.
Shortly after the Corasanti jurors delivered their verdict, Sedita said at a news conference that he was “absolutely astonished” by the verdict.
Sedita said “candidly he was shocked” by the verdict, but that’s not criticism, Finnerty said.
“I respectfully disagree,” Spitler replied.
Spitler told Burns he felt questioning jurors about the Corasanti verdict was important because he fears jurors may fear being criticized like the Corasanti jurors were if they return an unpopular verdict.
Burns said he wants jurors who are “not intimidated” by any comments or criticism from anybody.
Nine jurors were chosen Thursday, with the remaining three jurors plus alternates expected to be selected today.
At last month’s suppression hearing, a detective testified about what the defendant told him.
At Buffalo Police Headquarters, after his arrest, Mohamud seemed despondent but cooperated with detectives. “He said, ‘I loved my kids,’ ” Detective Sgt. James Lonergan recalled at the hearing.
Mohamud then said, “Shoot me here,” as he pointed to his forehead, Lonergan testified.
Officers who responded to the scene said Shukri Bile, the boy’s mother, gave permission to search the home. She told police that her husband was the last person to see the boy.
A police officer who was investigating the mother’s report of the missing child found Abdifatah in a fetal position in the blood-spattered basement, his hands and mouth duct-taped.
Based on what police heard at the scene, a detective issued a pickup order for Mohamud, a security guard employed by U.S. Security Associates who worked at The Buffalo News.
Police arrested him at The News and turned him over to homicide detectives.
Lonergan has said he read Mohamud his Miranda warning at 12:33 a.m. April 18. Mohamud began his statement to police at 12:55 a.m. and ended at 2:24 a.m.
After the statement, Mohamud gave permission for police to search his locker at The News and to search his car. At 4:52 a.m., Mohamud let a detective collect a DNA sample.
“The police properly obtained both verbal and written consent to search the property from Ms. Bile,” Burns said in his ruling. “There was no force or deception used in obtaining the consent.”
Burns also said that “the prosecution has produced credible, trustworthy evidence and has sustained the burden to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the statements and admissions made by the defendant were voluntary.”
Mohamud was fully and fairly advised of his constitutional rights, and he waived his rights to remain silent, Burns said.
“The statements made by the defendant were his own free and voluntary statements,” the judge said.