The videotaped questioning of Banita Marie Jacks, who police say killed her four daughters and then lived for months with their decomposing bodies, was played in open court Monday as a judge weighed whether to allow the tape into evidence.
Police said Mrs. Jacks confessed to killing her daughters during the questioning.
At the start of Monday’s hearing, D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick H. Weisberg threw out a defense motion to postpone the trial so that some DNA evidence could be processed. Judge Weisberg, who called the trial “long overdue,” is now deciding whether Mrs. Jacks’ taped confession violated her constitutional rights and should be excluded.
Mrs. Jacks was arrested in January 2008 after U.S. marshals arrived to evict the woman from her Southeast row house. Medical examiners later concluded that her daughters were killed at least seven months before.
Mrs. Jacks requested to be absent from the proceedings when Judge Weisberg viewed over six hours of a D.C. detectives initial interrogation of her. She requested through her attorney that Judge Weisberg not watch the tapes in open court because, she said, she wanted him to give the tapes his “total attention.” The judge allowed Mrs. Jacks to leave the courtroom but at the public’s request chose to watch the videotapes in open court.
In the two tapes that were played Monday afternoon, Mrs. Jacks appeared exhausted, resting her head on the table, repeatedly spitting in a cup and speaking in a soft voice, at times incoherently.
Defense attorney Peter A. Krauthamer contends that the lengthy questioning of Mrs. Jacks by investigators violated her constitutional rights.
Mr. Krauthamer is asking the judge to throw out the tapes because, he said, his client was questioned for an inordinate amount of time while not being fully cognizant due to medical issues. The judge will continue to view the tapes on Tuesday before making his decision.
Initially Mrs. Jacks is shown entering the interrogation room and walking off camera as an officer helps her dress in a white jumpsuit. She was wearing only a T-shirt when U.S. Marshals arrested her and read her her rights.
Asked by an officer if she wanted food, Mrs. Jacks responded, “Yes, I do. I havent eaten since October.”
At the time of her arrest, Mrs. Jacks told investigators that she hadnt fed her children for a substantial period of time and that they began dying in their sleep one at a time over a seven- to 10-day period.
Mrs. Jacks faces 12 charges, including murder and failure to get medical care for her daughters — Brittany, 17, Tatianna, 11, N’Kiah, 6, and Aja, 5.
The first tape mainly depicts Mrs. Jacks sitting at a table waiting to speak to detectives. The contents of the second tape viewed in court show her speaking with the detectives about her daughters; the death of the two youngest girls father, Nathanial Fogle Jr.; the repossession of her car; her time in a homeless shelter; the disconnection of her utilities; and her increasing feeling that there were problems with her children.
Judge Weisberg concluded watching part of two tapes Monday afternoon after Mrs. Jacks described having more and more dreams with a religious tone. She said she woke up at night and that as she sat alone at the kitchen table interpreting her dreams, she realized that her name had significant religious meaning, that she was connected to the Virgin Mary and that the deceased father of her children was the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Judge Weisberg is scheduled to watch a third tape in the case Tuesday.
Investigators say one of the girls was fatally stabbed, another was strangled and beaten, and the other two were strangled to death.
Doctors have said that Mrs. Jacks was competent to stand trial. The evaluation was ordered because she refused to cooperate with defense and medical personnel.