KNOXVILLE (AP) -- A Knox County judge has thrown out confessions made by accused serial killer Thomas D. "Zoo Man" Huskey.
Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner said Wednesday the confessions that Huskey made to investigators in 1992 came after officers violated Huskey's Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Attorneys on both sides in the case have said in previous hearings that the statements could be a key issue.
Huskey, 41, is accused of killing four women in 1991 in a wooded section of East Knox County. He is currently serving a 44-year prison sentence for the kidnapping and rapes of three women in 1991 and 1992.
Specifically, Baumgartner found that investigators continued to interview Huskey even after he twice asked for an attorney.
"It is well-settled law that all questioning must cease upon an individual’s invocation of the right to remain silent," Baumgartner wrote. He added that under the law the questioning can only resume at the request of the accused.
Prosecutors said they would appeal.
Both Herbert Moncier and Gregory P. Isaacs, Huskey's attorneys, declined to comment on Baumgartner’s ruling, citing a gag order in the case.
Huskey, a former elephant trainer, was nicknamed "Zoo Man" by prostitutes who said he took them to the Knoxville Zoo for sex.
Huskey is to stand trial on the four murder charges in October using jurors selected in Chattanooga. A 1999 trial on the charges ended in a mistrial because of a deadlocked jury.
Baumgartner's ruling came in response to a motion filed by Huskey's lawyers earlier this summer to suppress the statements. That motion, in turn, came after the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed one of Huskey’s four rape convictions, which reduced his sentence from 66 years to 44 years.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)