Judge considers disqualifying teen’s confession to school fireBy Jonathon Shacat
Wick News Service
BISBEE — A Cochise County Superior Court judge is considering a request to suppress a juvenile’s confession that he burned an administrative building at Valley Union High School in Elfrida last year.
Manuel Corona, now 17, is charged with committing arson of the school’s administrative building, committing burglary of the administrative building while armed, committing burglary of a science lab, and committing aggravated criminal damage of the administrative building, the lab and the gym on July 22 or 23.
Corona was interviewed by Cochise County Sheriff’s Office officials from 4:27 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. on July 25. He signed a form indicating his desire for his mother, Jennifer, to be present during the interview. At that time, he denied involvement in starting the fire.
His mother left to accompany officials as they conducted a search of their home. Corona remained with the officials for a period of about three hours. Then, at 7:50 p.m., he made a confession to Deputy Juan Hoke.
At a hearing in Division 3 court on Thursday, defense attorney Ricardo Bracamonte said the confession should be suppressed because the defendant’s mother was not present during the second interview. Also, he pointed out, Corona was a special education student.
On the other hand, Doyle Johnstun, chief deputy county attorney, said the confession should not be suppressed because the juvenile reinitiated the conversation with Hoke and decided it was best to come clean, even though his mother was not there.
Judge Wallace Hoggatt said he will take the matter under advisement. He could issue a ruling as soon as March 23. A status conference will occur April 3. The trial will be held April 13.
Corona also is charged with possessing more than 9 grams of cocaine, possessing the drug for sale, transporting the drug for sale and three counts of possessing drug paraphernalia during a vehicle stop along Highway 80 in Tombstone on June 26.
He also confessed to the drug offense, but his attorney is seeking to suppress that statement as well. A hearing is scheduled for April 27. The trial will take place May 12.