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Judge rules suspect interviews were proper in hit-and-run case

By John Sowell, The Idaho Statesman
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 15--Fourth District Judge Melissa Moody said three Boise police officers were "exemplary" in questioning Alex Cole Thackery after the 18-year-old returned to the scene where he allegedly struck a bicyclist in downtown Boise last October.

"The police officers did not employ harsh interrogation techniques or even raise their voices," Moody wrote in an opinion allowing testimony from the interviews to be introduced at trial. "The police officers simply asked (the) defendant pertinent questions about what happened that morning. (The) defendant's answers were directly on point and he became emotional only when the police suggested he did something wrong."

Moody issued her opinion July 30. The case file had remained with the judge. The Statesman was able to view the file Thursday, after submitting a public records request July 31.

Police were called to Eighth and Myrtle streets shortly before 7 a.m.Oct. 17 following a report that a motorist struck a bicyclist and took off. Forty-five minutes later, Thackery, a Boise State University student, called 911 to report the incident and told a dispatcher he wanted to tell police what happened.

Defense attorney Annie McDevitt argued last month in court that Thackery's statements to police should be barred because officers coerced her client into talking to them. McDevitt claimed Thackery did not voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly waive his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning before answering questions from the three officers.

Moody said Thackery clearly waived his right to remain silent.

Boise police Cpl. Scott McMikle read Thackery his Miranda rights and asked him if he wished to give up his right to remain silent.

"I'll talk," Thackery told McMikle. After the corporal asked him a second time, he responded by saying "I'll talk to you," according to Moody's decision.

Thackery said he didn't know if he wanted to give up his right to speak with an attorney before questioning, but answered questions from McMikle and officers Lance Nickerson and Robert Rainford during separate interviews.

Thackery told police he left the scene because he needed time to think. He told the officers he was living with the memory of a prior accident three years earlier that people still criticized him over. He said he had told himself that if he ever got into another accident, he would kill himself.

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"I came back! I had to have time!" Thackery said while sobbing after being told he was under arrest for felony leaving the scene of an accident.

No other details were provided about the earlier incident.

Online court records show that Thackery was cited for reckless driving in October 2011. He later pleaded guilty to inattentive or careless driving and was fined $213. The records of another case against him are sealed.

Thackery said his family was struggling to provide money for him to attend BSU. He also told the officers he feared that his parents' car insurance rates would rise if the mishap was reported.

Thackery told the officers he didn't know whether he entered the intersection on a red light. He said he was "just following the traffic" on the one-way street leading toward the BSU campus. He said he didn't see the cyclist before she was struck.

"Like I said, she literally jumped out right when I hit the stoplight," Thackery said, according to Moody's decision.

Nickerson asked if it was possible the light was red.

"Possibly, but like I said, I know cars were passing beside me," Thackery said. "All that's so blurred, but I know I would have stopped on a red light."

Moody also rejected a defense contention that Thackery was "highly suggestible" and that officers planted details of the incident in his mind that Thackery later repeated back. The judge said Thackery had average intellectual abilities and that he wasn't any more distraught at the scene than any other emotional 18-year-old confronted with the same situation of being accused of running over a bicyclist.

Thackery is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 30. The case will be heard by a jury.


(c)2014 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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