Defense questions Matthew Ogden interrogation
Attempting to suppress statements Matthew Ogden made following his newborn’s death, defense attorneys argued Friday that investigators neglected Ogden having a psychological meltdown as they questioned him.
Ogden is accused of killing his month-old daughter, Sarah, in June 2015 during an episode when his wife stated she saw him violently shaking their daughter.
His wife, Phyllis “Amy” Wyatt, told police that Ogden then took Sarah into the next room where she heard pounding and thumping sounds.
Sarah’s cause of death would be determined as a fractured skull, hemorrhaging to her brain and lacerations to her liver.
Attorneys questioned several investigators in the case Thursday and Friday during a motions hearing, which often touched upon Ogden’s mental state during interviews with law enforcement.
The defense said that investigators exploited Ogden’s mental health problems, creating a coercive situation to elicit incriminating statements during questioning.
Ogden told investigators during the interviews that he suffers from multiple mental health issues, including schizoaffective disorder, anxiety, seizures, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, said public defender Kori Zapletal.
The defendant also hears voices in his head, one of which is named George, Ogden told investigators during those interviews.
Lisa Miller, chief investigator for the district attorney’s office, who conducted some of the interviews two days after Sarah’s death, testified in the hearing Friday.
Before Miller spoke with Ogden, she and the other officers who’d previously interviewed him talked about Ogden’s mental state.
Miller said that she and the other officers believed he “was playing a game.” They didn’t believe that his mental issues were interfering with his ability to think clearly and respond to interview questions.
“Not one of us present believed that,” Miller testified.
They believed Ogden was taking advantage of his mental health issues to maneuver out of the questions.
In prior interviews, Ogden had become upset enough to vomit or gag into a trash can, said Zapletal.
And though Ogden had already been talking to investigators, Miller would reveal to him that they knew Sarah’s death was non-natural.
Miller testified that she started the interview with a firm approach, letting Ogden know it was time for a serious conversation.
“I explained that I would be asking hard questions that would probably upset him,” she testified.
In a recording of the interview, Ogden could be heard saying he was “fighting off seizures.”
Multiple times in the interviews Ogden said he couldn’t handle it, that he was freaking out, and suggested that he wanted to leave, said Zapletal.
Asked why she didn’t halt the interviews at these points, Miller said, “because he was clearly handling it.”
Despite him becoming emotionally distraught and animated at points, Ogden was able to understand what he was being told and answer clearly, said Miller.
Prosecutors keyed in on the numerous scenarios Ogden supplied as explanations for Sarah’s death.
If it happened it was an accident, Ogden could be heard saying in a recording. He suggested that Sarah sustained her head injury by hitting her head on the window sill, or that the dog might have knocked her off the bed.
“I’d die before I hurt one of my children. I would never hurt my baby,” he told Miller.
During the motions hearing on Thursday attorneys also questioned a Parachute police officer who interviewed Ogden.
Under questioning by Zapletal, the officer testified that he did not inquire about whether Ogden had taken his medication that day.
The defense also argued that Ogden’s statements must be suppressed because they occurred before he was Mirandized.
Each of the investigators questioned Thursday and Friday also repeatedly said, along with the prosecutors, that Ogden was not under arrest during these interviews. He was always free to go and was consistently reminded that he was not under arrest.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Barrett repeated, along with each investigator on the stand, that Ogden did in fact leave the building multiple times without being restrained.
“I’m out of here. I can’t handle this. You’re accusing me of things,” Ogden could be heard saying on a recording as he left the room.
But Ogden never said that he wanted a lawyer or was refusing to cooperate, Barrett confirmed with Miller.
Among numerous other motions, the defense also motioned for a change of venue, citing the heavy media attention on the case and an inflamed community over the nature of the case.
Defense attorneys are also trying to suppress evidence seized from Ogden’s apartment and a forensic download of his cellphone.
Another motions hearing is scheduled for Aug. 15, and Ogden’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 26.
Like in Garfield County’s most recent murder trial, Barrett recommended the court call at least 600 potential jurors for the trial.