Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa hospital staffers say lawyers were kept from defendant

TAMPA — Questions mounted Monday about the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's handling of a defendant in a triple-murder case in the days after his arrest, as doctors and nurses who treated the man described to a judge how lawyers were barred from visiting him at the hospital.

Defense attorneys for Edward Covington, a former state prison guard, are asking a judge to suppress his confession to the murders of 26-year-old Lisa Freiberg and her two children, 7-year-old Zachary and 2-year-old Savannah. Covington was found hiding in a Lutz mobile home amid the family's mutilated bodies the day after Mother's Day in 2008.

As Covington, now 41, was treated for a possible pill overdose over two days, attorneys from the Hillsborough Public Defender's Office were prevented from seeing him. They were finally given access to him after he had confessed to the killings. The Public Defender's Office now argues that the confession was obtained in violation of his constitutional right to counsel.

Hillsborough sheriff's officials have asserted that defense attorneys were kept away from Covington at the direction of hospital officials and that he had no right to a lawyer because he was not yet under arrest. But testimony from doctors and nurses at a pretrial hearing on Monday raised doubts about those claims.

Lynnette Frimmer, a nurse and supervisor at Florida Hospital Tampa — called University Community Hospital at the time of Covington's arrest — said that when Assistant Public Defender Charles Traina called her asking to visit Covington the night after he was admitted, she directed a staff member to ask the permission of the sheriff's deputies who were standing guard at his room.

A nurse in Covington's unit "came back to the phone and told me that the person in charge said that he is not receiving visitors at that time." That "person in charge," Frimmer testified, was Col. Gary Terry, head of the sheriff's investigative division.

Testifying in January, Terry, now retired, said hospital officials and not law enforcement called the shots on whom Covington could see. "The medical staff had told me he could have visitors if he requested them. He had not requested any visitors," Terry testified.

Covington was brought to the hospital immediately after deputies found him at the crime scene because he had overdosed on Tylenol and aspirin in what might have been an effort to commit suicide.

Were Covington not officially in police custody, the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a defense attorney would not have kicked in. Detectives have said he was not technically under arrest during his time at the hospital, even though he was under around-the-clock guard by at least two deputies.

That was not the impression of the medical professionals who came into contact with Covington, most of whom testified Monday that they understood Covington to be in police custody.

Melanie Wetmore, an emergency room nurse, recalled asking the deputies who brought Covington to the hospital whether he was in police custody. "They responded that yes, he was," she said.

Dr. Simon Roy Edginton, who was the first physician to examine Covington after he arrived in the emergency room, read from the notes he took at the time during his testimony Monday: "Patient presents in custody of police after apparent homicide."

Circuit Judge William Fuente's ruling on the admissibility of the confession will be pivotal for the direction of Covington's trial, scheduled to begin in October. The confession, while not the only evidence available to prosecutors, is central in the case.

A state appeals court last month reversed the double-murder conviction of a Pasco County man because investigators did not inform him that a lawyer was trying to see him, an opinion that could guide Fuente's decision.

More hospital employees are expected to testify today.

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.

Comments
Oldsmar cheer coach faces new sexual battery charges

Oldsmar cheer coach faces new sexual battery charges

An Oldsmar cheerleading coach charged this week with sending explicit images to a minor now faces additional sexual battery charges.Victor Martin Valenty, 28, is accused of having "inappropriate sexual activity" with a 15-year-old at his home for mor...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Migrants denied access to lawyers, held in cells 23 hours a day, ACLU lawsuit alleges

Migrants denied access to lawyers, held in cells 23 hours a day, ACLU lawsuit alleges

After crossing the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, 123 men have been detained for weeks, caged in prison cells for up to 23 hours per day and denied access to attorneys at a federal detention center in Sheridan, Oregon, a lawsuit filed Friday by t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Times wiresOMAHA, Neb.  —Defending champion Florida failed to win a third straight elimination game, losing to Arkansas 5-2 Friday night and departing the College World Series.The Gators (49-21) had to win to force a rematch. The Razorback...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG – Many times this season the Rays' strategy of opening the game with a short reliever and using the bullpen to finish hasn't had much success.Friday wasn't one of those nights.A total of six pitchers held the Yankees and their va...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rowdies fall to Penn FC

Rowdies fall to Penn FC

By Darek SharpTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For the second time this season, Penn FC got two goals from a former Rowdie that led the way to a win over Tampa Bay.Lucky Mkosana doubled his season total Friday in a comeback 2-1 win before an...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

New details emerged Friday night about the Uber ride in Arizona in March 2016 that led to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension to start the upcoming season, including the fact that Winston was in a car that night with a former Vand...
Published: 06/22/18