Court: Convicted Killer’s Rights Not Violated By Fort Smith Police
A convicted killer will remain in prison after the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday found that Fort Smith police did not violate his right to remain silent, as he did not clearly invoke that right.
The opinion handed down by the Supreme Court affirms the murder conviction of Brandon Clark Fritts, despite his claim that a lower court “erred in denying his motion to suppress an incriminating statement that he made after invoking his right to remain silent,” the Supreme Court opinion states.
The opinion states Fritts did not clearly invoke his right to remain silent and continued to voluntarily talk to law enforcement about the case, eventually confessing to the murder.
Fritts, 30, of Sallisaw, Okla., was found guilty in August 2012 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jamie Lee Czeck, 36, of Kibler. Police said Fritts gunned down Czeck in an alley near the intersection of South 17th Street and Q Street in Fort Smith on Jan. 3, 2012.
The killing stemmed from an argument over Czeck allegedly leaving the Aryan Circle to join the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang, police said.
While being transported by police, Fritts allegedly admitted to killing Czeck, saying it was a personal matter and had nothing to do with the Aryan Circle. A detective who was present testified at a suppression hearing that none of the officers present advised Fritts of his Miranda rights, but they did not ask him any questions “other than some questions about how he was treated while in jail and then about a letter concerning the Aryan Circle that had been sent from prison,” the Supreme Court opinion states.
After arriving in Fort Smith with Fritts, he was read his Miranda rights, signed a rights form and then again admitted to killing Czeck, court documents state.
Fort Smith police were called that day after a passerby reported seeing a dead body in the alley. Responding officers found Czeck’s body, which had been shot several times, along with several 9-millimeter shell casings, according to court records.
Detectives interviewed Fritts because he was one of the last people to see Czeck alive. Fritts told police he knew nothing about Czeck’s death, although cell phone records obtained by authorities contradicted those statements, police said.
Fort Smith police interviewed Fritts’ girlfriend, Charitie Clawson, who led investigators to the murder weapon and told police Fritts killed Czeck. Fritts later admitted to shooting the victim, but denied it had anything to do with the “Aryan Circle,” according to court documents. Police later said they believed Czeck had been killed to keep him silent about the group, according to court records.
Fritts’ girlfriend told investigators he was angry with Czeck because Czeck was going to “lay down his patch and ride with the Hell’s Angels.”
An arrest warrant affidavit states Fritts told police Czeck “would not shut up and would not stay where he was supposed to stay,” so Fritts shot the victim once in the face, several times in the chest and once in the back of the head “for good measures,” court documents state.
While being transported by officers from Sequoyah County, Okla., to Fort Smith, Fritts allegedly said the killing had nothing to do with the Aryan Circle and was instead just a personal matter. Later, after being advised of his Miranda rights, he again confessed to the shooting, police said.
Investigators later found a Glock 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol at Fritts’ father’s home, where Fritts was hiding the weapon, police said.