Metro-East News

1/30/2009: Suspect’s statement thrown out

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Belleville News-Democrat on Jan. 30, 2009

Darrell Lane, suspect in a triple homicide in Belleville, has an IQ of 63, reads at a second-grade level and functions intellectually as a 10-year-old, a psychologist testified Thursday.

Did Lane understand he was under arrest March 4, 2005, when three St. Louis police officers got him out of bed and took him to headquarters for questioning? Did he understand his Miranda rights and what it meant to waive them?

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Milton Wharton ruled Thursday that he did not.

Wharton barred prosecutors from using Lane’s statements during his trial, set to begin Feb. 23, in the stabbing deaths of Belleville hairstylist Michael Cooney, 62, and his customers, sisters Dorothy Bone, 82, and Doris Fischer, 79.

Wharton did find, however, that Lane’s statement to police was voluntary, so it can be used it to impeach him if he testifies.

Lane, then 16, gave the statement two days after the three were found murdered March 2, 2005, at Cooney’s home-based salon at 7813 W. Main St. in Belleville. Lane’s fingerprints were found inside Cooney’s abandoned Nissan SUV.

Daniel Cuneo, a Belleville psychologist, testified Thursday that Lane was mildly mentally retarded and attended special education classes.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Piper said Lane told Belleville Police Lt. Robert Sabo that he didn’t read well, so Sabo helped him read the form. But Lane’s attorney, LaToya Berry, said that didn’t mean Lane understood those rights.

“I knew that he couldn’t read them, so I helped him and I believed he understood them,” Sabo testified.

Cuneo testified Lane did understand his Miranda rights when he interviewed him in December, but he couldn’t offer an opinion on whether he understood them 3-1/2 years earlier when police interviewed him.

Another hearing is scheduled in Lane’s case for next week.