Public Safety

Judge: No rights violated for man accused in fatal smoke shop shooting

Judge said investigator wasn't asking for incriminating response

Andre Richardson listens to attorneys after hearings on change of venue and suppression of evidence in Linn County Distr
Andre Richardson listens to attorneys after hearings on change of venue and suppression of evidence in Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. Richardson is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Royal Abram and Matrell Johnson in Cedar Rapids in May. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge will allow a statement made to police by a man, charged with fatally shooting two teens outside a smoke shop, after he requested a lawyer.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill, in his ruling filed earlier this month, said the investigator asked the question after Andre Richardson, 26, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other charged, requested an attorney but it was only to inform the defendant about the reason for his arrest, not to illicit an incriminating response.

After Richardson requested a lawyer, Cedar Rapids police investigator Chip Joecken, asked Richardson if anyone informed him of the charges and if he understood those, according to the ruling. Richardson said “Yeah, sounds about …(unintelligible),” which the defense argued violates their client's Miranda rights.

Thornhill, in the ruling, said it was a “yes or no question, which does not call or suggest an incriminating response. This “was not interrogation,” and didn’t violate the defendant’s right to have an attorney.            

Sarah Hradek, one of Richardson’s lawyers, during an October hearing argued that Richardson’s answer shouldn’t be allowed both because he asked for a lawyer and because there’s nothing in the law that requires an officer to make sure the defendant understands the charges.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said the officer did what he was “legally required” to do — advise a defendant of the charges. Joecken may have gone farther asking if he understood, but he wasn’t asking him to make an incriminating statement.

The defense, during the October hearing, also asked Thornhill to move the trial out of Linn because of extensive pretrial publicity but the judge hasn’t yet made a ruling on this issue.

Richardson is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, attempted murder and willful injury causing serious injury, and one count each of intimidation with a weapon, felon in possession of a firearm and going armed with intent.

He is accused of firing a “series of shots with a .45-caliber handgun at close range” into a Buick Rendezvous in the parking lot of the Iowa Smoke Shop at 70 Kirkwood Court SW, according to criminal complaints.

Officers arrived about 1:20 a.m. and found Royal Abram and Matrell Johnson, both 18, of Cedar Rapids, fatally shot in back seat of the car, complaints show.

Two 19-year-olds, Booker McKinney and Kayla Panos-Blackcloud, were in the front seats and were badly injured.

If convicted of the charges, Richardson faces two life sentences. His trial was reset to May 4.

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