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Lindsey's confession can be used at trial in slaying of St. Petersburg officer

LARGO — The confession in which Nicholas Lindsey said "I just started shooting" at a St. Petersburg police officer can be used in the upcoming murder trial, a judge ruled Friday.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane Covert also reluctantly delayed the trial against the 16-year-old after a defense attorney said "there is no way that I can be prepared" for the previously scheduled Dec. 12 trial date.

It all stems from the night of Feb. 21, when veteran Officer David S. Crawford checked a report of a potential car thief near Eighth Street and Third Avenue S, not far from Tropicana Field. He was shot several times and killed.

Lindsey was brought in for questioning the next day. He was informed of his rights and eventually confessed that he was preparing to steal a car, then saw Crawford, and pointed a gun at him. The video-recorded confession captured him saying such things as "I thought it was on safety," and "I figured I had to do it because I don't want to die" and "Mom, Daddy, I'm sorry," according to a video recording released this week.

Lindsey's attorneys, Dyril Flanagan and Frank McDermott, had said there were reasons the confession should not be allowed in court.

But Covert referred to a two-day hearing about the matter, in which Lindsey's mother said she had asked officers for an attorney on the night Lindsey was interrogated, and prosecutors said she was fully aware of Lindsey's decision to talk to police without one, and even present at the time.

Covert ruled in favor of the prosecutors on Friday, saying the state's witnesses were "credible, trustworthy and reliable" in explaining the events of that night, and that Lindsey's mother was not.

Flanagan and McDermott had argued in their motion that Lindsey's parents had become "unwitting agents of law enforcement" because they urged him to talk to police, telling him about evidence police might have against him. They also suggested he might get more lenient treatment by talking to officers, by saying "Son, do you want to go home?" and similar remarks, the motion said.

All this violated established procedures that stem from the Supreme Court's Miranda warnings, the lawyers said in their motion.

Although Covert's ruling allows the confession to be used in the trial, he did rule out another conversation. Before Lindsey's Miranda warning was read to him that night, a sergeant noticed Lindsey's shoes looked strange and asked him about them. Lindsey said he was wearing his mother's shoes because he couldn't find his. That was potentially significant, because a Nike slip-on shoe had been found near the crime scene, and it matched a pair Lindsey owned.

Covert said on Friday that exchange could not be used in trial. But prosecutors previously had said they weren't going to bring it up.

Although Covert granted the defense motion to delay the trial, he didn't sound happy about it. "I'm surprised that there's so many loose ends" in the defense team's effort, he said.

Lindsey's mother, Deneen Sweat, who attended the hearing along with Lindsey's father, also named Nicholas, said she was pleased about the extra time before trial, but had no further comment.

Instead of having the trial on Dec. 12, Covert scheduled a pretrial hearing for that date, and said he would schedule follow-up hearings every three weeks or so after that. He said that's the approach he normally takes when cases are not progressing as quickly as they should.

Murder cases in Pinellas County routinely go to trial a couple of years after the murders themselves. The Dec. 12 date would have been less than 10 months after the shooting.

The February shooting of Crawford stunned St. Petersburg, especially coming just a month after the shootings of St. Petersburg Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas Baitinger — the first St. Petersburg officers killed in the line of duty in 30 years.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or ckrueger@tampabay.com.

Lindsey's confession can be used at trial in slaying of St. Petersburg officer 12/02/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 2, 2011 10:50pm]

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