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Metro-Dade officers defend interrogation

With the case against the man accused of killing 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce hanging in the balance, prosecutors have all but completed their part of a court hearing to determine the legality of Juan Carlos Chavez's confession.

Final arguments are scheduled for today. Sometime after that, Dade Circuit Judge Marc Schumacher will make his ruling.

Wednesday's witnesses included several Metro-Dade detectives who provided details of police interviews and the interrogation of Chavez, a 30-year-old farm worker accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering the Redland boy.

Chavez was questioned for more than 50 hours over three days after he was picked up at his home by police Dec. 6, 1995. About three months earlier, Jimmy had been abducted on his way home from school.

During the long periods of questioning, Chavez offered at least three versions of involvement in the Ryce case.

Prosecutors Catherine Vogel and Michael Band introduced as evidence two forms that Chavez signed, one giving up his right to appear before a judge within 24 hours and the other waiving his right against self-incrimination.

Defense attorneys have maintained that the ultimate confession given by Chavez was coerced and that he was exhausted by the length of time he was held.

Assistant Public Defender Art Koch cross-examined the police officers Wednesday about investigative techniques that Koch said may have contributed to Chavez's decision to give a sworn statement.

"The statement eventually extorted from Chavez was a product not only of his exhaustion, but of various interrogation techniques," Koch told the judge.

The detectives maintained that they stayed within investigative norms during the questioning.

The techniques included spinning scenarios for Chavez, suggesting different ways he could have been involved and trying to prod him into talking.

They showed him that one of his friends _ a man he said was his lover _ was also being questioned. They asked Chavez to write down his version of events. The detectives talked to him about the Bible and his religious beliefs.

At one point, Chavez offered to confess if he could be assured the death penalty. He wrote it down for Metro-Dade police Sgt. Felix Jimenez, stating: "My only wish and objective is to die."