Yogurt Shop Case Takes a Twist

Police videotape of Michael Scott's interrogation apparently shows APD Detective Robert Merrill holding a gun to Scott's head. Merrill testified he was role-playing, and held his fingers to Scott's head while holding his gun in the other hand.
Police videotape of Michael Scott's interrogation apparently shows APD Detective Robert Merrill holding a gun to Scott's head. Merrill testified he was "role-playing," and held his fingers to Scott's head while holding his gun in the other hand.

Last Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 14), yogurt shop defendant Michael Scott returned to court for a pretrial hearing meant to determine whether information he gave police about his role in the 1991 murders would be admissible in court. Although only one witness testified at the brief hearing (a continuation of September proceedings), an interesting contradiction arose regarding police officers' insistence that their routine interrogation of Scott led to a "voluntary" statement regarding his role in the 1991 murders. Statements made by retired Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent Chuck Meyers challenge previous statements made by Austin Police Dept. detective Robert Merrill.

In one of the controversial moments captured in a Sept. 10, 1999 videotaped interview of Scott's confession, Merrill stands behind Scott's right shoulder -- out of the defendant's range of sight -- and holds what appears to be the barrel of a gun to the back of Scott's head. Merrill has consistently said that he was not holding an actual gun to Scott's head, but was pointing his finger at Scott while the .22-caliber pistol he'd brought into the interview room was held in his other hand, facing the floor. The purpose of this exercise, Merrill has testified, was to aid in jogging Scott's memory about what occurred inside the "I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!" shop the night of Dec. 6, 1991. Merrill insists the gun was taken into the room only so that Scott could see it and hold it, and Merrill has continuously denied that he ever planned to use it to intimidate Scott.

However, retired ATF agent Meyers testified that, after a conversation with Merrill, he knew Merrill intended to place the gun behind Scott's head. When Scott's attorney, Carlos Garcia asked Meyers if he had talked with Merrill regarding the gun incident, Meyers responded, "I knew it was going to happen, so I wanted to see [Scott's] reaction." Garcia pressed further: Did Meyers remember the specifics of the conversation regarding the gun "demonstration"? "I don't remember the exact conversation about it, but I knew it was happening," Meyers answered.

Garcia could not be reached for comment, but Meyer's statements could strengthen the defense argument that Scott's confession was the product of coercive police tactics. District Judge Mike Lynch is expected to rule on the admissibility of the statements in early January 2002.

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