Detectives didn’t read an Akron man accused of shooting and killing a University of Akron student during a pizza shop robbery his Miranda rights when they questioned him in 2017.
Whether or not this was proper is now up for debate. However, the defendant's statements are a key piece of evidence in the case.
Prosecutors say Miranda wasn’t required because Shaquille Anderson was already in prison — for a series of unrelated robberies — and was free to talk or not talk to the detectives. Anderson’s attorneys, however, say he should have been read his rights and are asking the judge in his murder trial to suppress his statements.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty held the second of two hearings on this issue Wednesday afternoon. She is allowing the attorneys to file post-hearing briefs before she makes a ruling.
Anderson, 24, is accused of shooting and killing Zakareia “Zak” Husein, 21, during a Dec. 7, 2015, robbery at Husein’s family business, Premium New York Style Pizza, 380 E. Glenwood Ave.
Akron police, with help from the FBI, identified Anderson as a suspect. Anderson was already in prison for several robberies committed after Husein’s death. He is currently serving 21 years.
Anderson is charged with aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery and having weapons while under disability, which means he was prohibited from having a firearm because of a previous violation. The charges include gun and violent offender specifications. He faces life in prison.
Brian Pierce and Andrea Whitaker, who are representing Anderson, say detectives violated Anderson’s Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they failed to read him his Miranda rights, which include the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present, when they questioned him in prison about Husein’s death on Feb. 24, 2017. Police first questioned him when he was an inmate at the Lorain Correctional Institution and later at Mansfield Correctional Institution where he was transferred.
After leaving the prison, the detectives returned, advised Anderson of his Miranda rights and attempted to get another statement from him. Anderson chose not to answer further questions. The detectives returned on March 23, 2017, read Anderson his rights and again questioned him, using information they gathered from the first interview.
The attorneys say Anderson was in custody when he was interviewed because he was summoned to the interview room and was never advised that he was free to decline to speak or return to his cell. They are asking McCarty to suppress the statements Anderson made in February and March because the March statements were informed by the improper questioning in February.
Detective Tanisha Stewart, who questioned Anderson with Detective John Bell, testified Wednesday that she and Bell didn’t read Anderson his Miranda rights but did tell him it was up to him if he wanted to talk to them. She said they talked to Anderson for about four hours about several robberies, including the pizza shop robbery. She said he provided them with information about the robberies, including the Husein shooting, which he claimed was an accident.
Stewart said the detectives left but returned about an hour later at the request of their supervisor, who had talked with a prosecutor who wanted them to interview Anderson again, but read him his rights beforehand.
“It wasn’t that we did something wrong,” she said. “It was more like, ‘It’s better to be safe than sorry.’ ”
Stewart said she and Bell read Anderson his rights, but he asked if he could have an attorney and then declined to answer more questions. She said he also refused when they visited him again about a month later.
Pierce asked Stewart why they didn’t read Anderson his rights in the first interview when they knew he could potentially be charged with Husein’s murder.
“He was free to come and go,” she said. “We were in his house. That’s where he lives.”
Stewart said she and Bell weren’t wearing weapons and made no threats against Anderson to get him to talk.
“He cut off the other two interviews when he was informed of his rights,” Pierce said.
“Yes,” Stewart responded. “Rights he knew he had.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.