Top Texas appeals court to hear Austin death penalty case—-At issue is
whether police properly questioned Milton Gobert in 2003 stabbing.
A man facing the death penalty in Travis County in the 2003 stabbing death
of his ex-girlfriend's friend will have his case heard by the Texas Court
of Criminal Appeals, the court announced Wednesday.
The state's highest criminal court will determine whether Milton Dwayne
Gobert's recorded confession to the stabbing of 30-year-old Mel Cotton in
North Austin should be admissible at trial.
At issue is what Gobert said to Austin homicide Detective Michael Burgh
the day after Cotton was found dead.
"I don't want to give up any right, though, if I don't got no lawyer,"
Gobert said, according to court documents.
Burgh and Detective Kerry Scanlon then both asked: "You don't want to
talk?" Gobert then agreed to talk to them and signed a card saying he
understood the rights he was waiving. After a few questions, Scanlon again
asked Gobert if he was sure he wanted to give up his right to a lawyer.
Gobert said he was sure.
During an interview, Gobert said he wrestled a knife away from Cotton and
stabbed her with it, court documents show. Her 5-year-old son also was
stabbed but survived.
Defense lawyers say that Gobert clearly asserted his right to a lawyer and
that police should have ceased questioning him. Prosecutors say Gobert's
statement about a lawyer was not clear.
In 2006, state District Judge Bob Perkins sided with Gobert's defense
lawyers and ruled that nothing Gobert said could be used at his capital
A three-judge panel of the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals in April 2007
affirmed Perkins' ruling. Chief Justice Kenneth Law and Justice Jan
Patterson agreed with Perkins, and Justice David Puryear dissented.
Prosecutors asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to take the case, but
before the 3rd Court forwarded the case up the ladder for review, the
justices took another look.
In October, Law changed his mind and sided with Puryear. The court then
ordered that Gobert's statements could be used during his trial.
Gobert's lawyers then asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to take the
case. With its ruling Wednesday, the court said it would entertain oral
arguments in the case. The date has not been set.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)