CARRBORO, N.C. — An Orange County judge ruled Monday that police crossed the line to get a murder confession. As a result, the judge threw it out.
Judge Wade Barber called the actions of several Carrboro police officers an extreme deviation from lawful conduct. He said they knowingly violated Andrew Dalzell's rights.
"They committed these violations believing the ends justified the means," he said. ] Deborah Key was last seen leaving a Carrboro pub in December 1997. Seven years later, police arrested Dalzell and charged him with murder.
Police used a phony arrest warrant and a fake letter from the district attorney, saying he would seek the death penalty if Dalzell did not confess to the crime.
"This letter to Andrew was just as coercive as holding a gun to his head and saying if you want to live, you better tell me what I want to know," said defense attorney James Williams.
Authorities still have not found Key's body. After the judge's ruling, most of the courtroom sat in stunned silence.
"It's very unfair. It's just not right, just not right," said Laurel Schwartz, Key's friend.
"I don't believe we violated anyone's rights. We did our job. He confessed to killing Deborah Key and that's what we wanted," said Lt. John Lau, of the Carrboro Police Department.
Juanita Dalzell, Andrew's mother, was relieved with the judge's ruling.
"I feel like justice was done. I really do," she said.
Prosecutors have already filed notice of appeal. The ruling does not mean Dalzell is a free man. He is still in jail charged with murder.