Attorney says on-scene confession by suspect in fatal DUI crash should be thrown out

Posted at 5:03 PM, Feb 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-20 20:09:01-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- The attorney for Manuel Orrego-Savala – the man accused of killing two people in a drunken driving crash last month – has filed a motion to suppress admissions Savala made to police at the scene.

Attorney Jorge Torres, who is representing Savala in the case, filed a motion for suppression of confession on Monday in Marion County Superior Court 5.

In the motion, Torres argues that the Indiana state trooper who interviewed Savala at the scene immediately following the crash did not properly Mirandize him, and that, therefore, Savala’s statements should be inadmissible in court.

In a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the trooper said Savala initially denied haven driven the pickup truck involved in the crash – but later said he was the driver.

Torres argues that admission amounts to a confession, and that it was improperly obtained.

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The basis of Torres’ argument is that Savala reasonably believed he was under arrest at the moment the trooper began questioning him:

“Upon observing the defendant walking away from the scene, Mays activated the emergency lights of his marked police car and quickly caught up with the Defendant. Mays was in full police uniform when he ordered the Defendant to stop and start asking direct questions to the Defendant in connection with his alleged operation of the pick-up truck involved in the double fatality car crash. Under the circumstances, the Defendant reasonably believed that he was under arrest and he was not free to leave or keep walking away from the officer, therefore, Mays engaged in a custodial interrogation for purposes of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for which a fill advisement of Defendant’s Miranda rights was necessary.”

Torres also argues that the trooper should have known as soon as he realized it was a fatal crash that his questions to Savala were not a “mere roadside inquiry into identity, vehicle registration or other information”  but rather “specifically intended to support a criminal investigation.”

“[The trooper’s] questions were directed to the Defendant with the purpose of eliciting self-incriminatory statement from him which Mays knew that would facilitate a conviction against the Defendant,” Torres argues. “Under these circumstances, the Defendant had to be advised of his Miranda Rights before being asked any questions about the operation of the pick-up truck at issue.”

For those reasons, Torres argues that Savala’s self-incriminatory statements at the scene are inadmissible and should be suppressed.

Savala is accused of having a blood alcohol content of 0.239 percent – three times the legal limit – when the truck he was driving crashed into a vehicle on the shoulder of I-70 near Holt Road. The collision killed Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson, who was a passenger in the vehicle, and Uber driver Jeffrey Monroe.

At the scene, Savala identified himself with a Mexican Consulate ID card as Alex Cabrera Gonsales. Investigators later learned his name was Manuel Orrego-Savala.

Savala also faces charges of perjury, forgery, identity deception and false informing out of Boone County for allegedly using the Gonsales alias in a case in March 2017 for driving without a license.

Additionally, federal immigration officials announced earlier this month they had filed charges of illegal re-entry by a previously deport alien against Savala.

As of Tuesday evening, Judge Grant Hawkins, who is presiding over the case, had not issued a ruling about the motion to suppress. Savala was being held on a $200,000 bond at the Marion County Jail. He was next expected in court on March 27 for a pretrial conference.

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