ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A judge has ruled that incriminating statements an Arizona prisoner who is accused of killing a couple in New Mexico had made to investigators after his arrest can't be used at his trial in March.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera had excluded statements made by John Charles McCluskey to investigators because officers improperly interrogated him after he invoked his right to an attorney.
McCluskey was one of three prisoners who authorities say escaped in July 2010 from a medium-security prison near Kingman, Ariz., and went on a multi-state crime spree.
He is charged with carjacking and murder in the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., whose remains were found with their burned-out camping trailer on a ranch in eastern New Mexico.
McCluskey was sentenced to 43 years in prison on Arizona charges for breaking out of prison and abducting two truck drivers whose big rig was used as a getaway vehicle.
Prosecutors said McCluskey escaped with fellow inmates Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick on July 30, 2010, with the help of Casslyn Welch, who threw cutting tools onto the prison grounds and supplied the men with guns, money and a vehicle.
Police say McCluskey, Province and Welch ended up in New Mexico. Inmate Daniel Renwick, who made off alone in the vehicle Welch had provided, was captured a day later after a shootout in Colorado.
Welch and McCluskey were arrested nearly three weeks later at an Arizona campsite after a U.S. Forest Service employee spotted their vehicle. Province had separated from the couple and was arrested in Wyoming on Aug. 9, 2010.
Since Herrera made the ruling in July 26 ruling, one of McCluskey's lawyers has asked the judge to clarify whether the ruling applies to both phases of in the death penalty trial -- innocence-guilt phase and penalty phase -- as defense lawyers believe it should.
McCluskey was questioned the day after his arrest by FBI Agent James Rominger, who was seeking to clarify the roles of McCluskey, Welch and Tracy Allen Province in the kidnapping of the Haases.
McCluskey told Rominger, "Her (Welch's) role was that she was irrelevant in New Mexico. That was all me," according to court documents.
McCluskey went on to say, "I'm not too good right now. I'm kind -- I'm kind of, maybe on another day. But right now I'm -- I'm telling you right now, I'm not too good. In the head, OK?"
In that interview, McCluskey told the agent he had manipulated Welch into helping him escape from prison by telling her that he could not take any more time in prison.
The August 2010 interview by FBI Agent Marcus McCaskill and State Police Agent Patrick Bucksath took place after an apparent suicide attempt by McCluskey. McCluskey underwent a two-hour surgery, and was administered various drugs including morphine, before that questioning.