Inside an interrogation room in West Virginia, investigators asked George Carty whether he could visualize himself beating up his former drinking buddy and co-worker in Cape May County during the summer of 1982.
Carty, a medical-school graduate, played along with the hypothetical questions during that March 2007 interview and his statements eventually led the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office to charge him with the murder of John Attenborough, who was stomped and beaten to death.
Thanks to a ruling yesterday in Cape May County Municipal Court though, Carty can start visualizing what life might be like as a free man again.
Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten ordered that the majority of Carty's statementbe suppressed due to procedural errors and questionable tactics by the investigators who interviewed him in West Virginia, where he was living.
"I make this decision well aware of what's at stake," Batten said as Carty burst into tears.
The statement, in which Carty said he could visualize himself pushing and kicking Attenborough after a hypothetical argument, was the "linchpin" of the state's case, Carty's attorney, David Stefankiewicz, said.
Stefankiewicz had filed motions challenging several aspects of the interview in West Virginia, starting with the surprise knock on Carty's door. After agreeing to be interviewed without an attorney, Carty was driven to the West Virginia State Police headquarters, where he underwent five hours of interrogation and a partial polygraph in a secured room, all being recorded.
Although he was not arrested at the time, Carty was read his Miranda rights twice, and was essentially in custody, Stefankiewicz said.
Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Weintraub noted that Carty read and signed the first Miranda rights waiver, but Batten said investigators ignored Carty when he later said he didn't want to take a polygraph.
Weintraub defended the questioning tactics inside the interrogation room, arguing that Carty wouldn't have been able to "visualize" the crime scene or the murder unless he had been there. Batten called that a "quantum leap of logic" and pointed to numerous times in the statement where Carty had said "I'm making all this up."
Weintraub said Carty's apparent "cooperation" with investigators was merely a case of a very intelligent man who couldn't hide his conscience when confronted. Carty's wife Cheryl, said he's simply a good man who overcame alcoholism and eventually graduated from medical school.
"Most of all, he's an innocent man," she said outside the courtroom yesterday.