It was the most anticipated piece of evidence of the Menachem Stark, H”yd, murder trial, but a technical issue will force family, friends and observers who have been waiting two years to see it at trial will have to wait another day.
Defendant Kendel Felix gave the videotaped confession in April 2014. In the confession, Felix implicated several family members, but thus far, he is the only person who has been charged for the January 2014 kidnapping and killing of Stark.
Felix has pleaded not guilty to the charges, for which he faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison if convicted. His lawyer, Jack Goldberg, is expected to argue that the confession was coerced, and that a motorcycle accident six years ago left Felix with a brain injury that made him susceptible to aggressive police questioning.
On Thursday, jurors heard testimony from NYPD Detective Chris Scarry, who was involved in the investigation and present for the videotaped interrogation-confession, which was conducted by Kenneth Taub, Chief of the Homicide Bureau at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. On cross-examination, Scarry denied Goldberg’s insinuation that perhaps Felix’s confession contained only details about the murder that police had already told him; or that police may have employed misleading tactics to induce the confession, such as pretending that they didn’t believe Felix had a large role in the crime, and that if he only told them what they wanted to hear then he could go home. Scarry insisted that no trick tactics were used to obtain the confession, and that the confession contained details that Scarry did not previously know – the implication being that Felix’s confession was not merely a repeat of information that police had previously told Felix.
Several times during cross-examination, Goldberg referenced the fact that police had picked up several other Felix family members, in an apparent attempt to deflect attention from the defendant and onto the other perpetrators. These questions raised the ire of prosecutor Howard Jackson; in two separate instances, with the jury out of the courtroom, Jackson protested to this line of questioning by Goldberg. Justice Alexander Jeong agreed with Jackson; at one point, he admonished Goldberg, saying that the “arrest of [other possible perpetrators] is not proper to ask” about, and then, after Goldberg persisted with this line of questioning, saying, “You have to stop. Alright, Mr. Goldberg? Seriously!”
At 4:15 p.m., Taub – the fourth witness of the day – took the stand, and the court was finally ready for the playing of the confession videotape, which is perhaps the major piece of the prosecution’s evidence. Just a couple of minutes into the video – which consisted largely of Taub reading Felix his Miranda rights – Justice Jeong ordered the video paused; the volume was too low to hear Felix’s voice properly. Justice Jeong adjourned the proceedings until 10:30 a.m. Friday, when a technician will provide a solution – perhaps loudspeakers – and the video will be played.
A loud groan went up from the packed gallery.