SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A pediatrician awaiting trial on a murder charge in the death of his ex-wife must wait to learn if a Utah judge will throw out a key interview he gave to police that his attorney said involved overly aggressive interrogation tactics.
Several people testified Monday in a Salt Lake City courtroom, but time ran out before the court heard from the detectives who interrogated John Brickman Wall. They were scheduled to testify on April 14 when the hearing continues.
Wall’s attorney, Fred Metos, argued in court documents that the statements made during the three-hour interview should not be allowed at trial because Wall made them under “psychological and physical coercion” by the detectives.
Metos also asked a judge to suppress statements Wall made to others in the days following the September 2011 death of Uta Von Schwedler, 49, including to his young children.
Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Matthew Janzen countered that Wall spoke voluntarily and under no pressure or coercion. Police informed him of his right to remain silent, but Wall said he would be “‘happy to talk to police,’” a prosecution court filing says.
During an evidentiary hearing last fall, Salt Lake police detective Mike Hardin testified that Wall, 50, was evasive during an interview a few hours after Von Schwedler’s body was found.
Wall was unable to say where he was the night of Von Schwedler’s death or when he had last seen her, Hardin testified.
At one point during the three-hour interview, Hardin said, he began yelling at Wall in a tiny interrogation room and Wall blurted out, “‘I wasn’t there, I wasn’t there. I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know where I was.’”
That interview and other strange behavior led prosecutors to charge Wall with murder 18 months after Von Schwedler was found.
Following a two-day preliminary hearing in October, a judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to send Wall to trial. The judge noted the doctor’s bizarre behavior after the woman’s death.
Wall has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. No trial date has been set.
On Monday, a pair of family friends who spoke with Wall at his house the day after Von Schwedler’s death said the doctor exhibited erratic behavior. He vacillated between being extremely upset and panicked to being calm and business-like, said Andrea Brickey.
Wall didn’t mentioned being harassed or mistreated by police at the interrogation, Brickey said.
Jill Alger-James, a family friend who was called over to the house by Brickey, said Wall wouldn’t stop talking. She said he said odd things about not remembering if he killed his ex-wife before she finally told him to shut up.
After Von Schwedler was found dead in her bathtub, a medical examiner ruled she died from drowning as well as a fatal amount of Xanax. The medical examiner stopped short of ruling it was a homicide or suicide. Police called the death suspicious but didn’t arrest Wall until April 2013.
Metos has argued that the evidence suggests Von Schwedler ingested the Xanax herself.
Von Schwedler, a researcher at the University of Utah, married Wall in 1990 and they moved to Salt Lake City to raise their four kids. They divorced in 2006, setting off a divisive relationship in which they battled over custody.
During the previous two-day hearing, witnesses testified that Wall had developed hatred for Von Schwedler.
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