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Judge allows police interview video in murder trial
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

Karen Hassan

 

Bradley Justice

 

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Published: 7/4/2008 12:08 AM

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When police questioned him about a pizza delivery driver's murder, Bradley Justice argues, he was too high on alcohol and drugs to be interrogated.

The 30-year-old DeKalb County man said he was on an at least a 10-day binge in which he guzzled alcohol and took crack cocaine, powder cocaine and mixed at least two powerful pain killers and, thus, wasn't in any shape to understand his right to remain silent.

A judge, however, disagreed. DuPage Circuit Judge Robert Anderson ruled Thursday prosecutors may use at trial an 82-minute DVD recording of Justice's police interview.

Prosecutors Robert Berlin and Liam Brennan allege Justice robbed and beat Karen Hassan with a hammer Nov. 2, 2006, as she delivered pizzas near West Chicago. The 41-year-old St. Charles woman was a single mother with four sons who weeks earlier began delivering pizzas after being laid off from another job. Her husband died in 1999 of a heart attack.

Justice has pleaded innocent. He is accused of fleeing with Hassan's cellular phone, credit cards and a few hundred dollars to buy crack cocaine. Police arrested him that next day in downstate Tuscola after tracking him to a motel through the use of the slain woman's cellular phone.

Justice denied killing Hassan during the Nov. 3, 2006, interview with police, but authorities allege he made incriminating statements, such as when he admitted ordering the pizzas.

The judge ruled Thursday that police properly explained the defendant's legal rights and that Justice understood them. Anderson also disagreed with the defense team's allegation that police resorted to coercion or false promises of leniency during the interrogation, in which Justice eats pizza, chicken wings, sips a soda and takes a cigarette break.

"I've watched the DVD and (Justice) appears alert, oriented and, from the conversation, is a bright and articulate person," Anderson said. "He was well treated."

The murder was captured in an audio recording. Hassan had talked to her St. Charles attorney earlier that evening about an unrelated family issue. She hit the redial button after growing alarmed during the delivery.

In her final moments, Hassan pleaded for her life. More than once, she asks, "Why are you doing this to me?" The tape ends with her muffled moaning.

Hassan left the restaurant about 8:30 p.m. Nov. 2, 2006, to deliver $70 worth of pizzas in an area near North Avenue and Powis Road. Her manager called one of her sons, Nicholas, who also worked at the restaurant, after she failed to return.

Her son drove to the delivery area, called 911 and waited for police to arrive. Officers discovered his mother's bludgeoned body and the murder weapon about 1 a.m.

Prosecutors said they have at least three key witnesses who allegedly tie Justice to the brutal crime. They said a bouncer at a strip club near the murder scene identified Justice as the man who borrowed his phone to order the pizzas. Prosecutors said Justice's work acquaintance told them the defendant had him toss out the pizzas and a bag containing receipts from the restaurant. Another acquaintance also reported that Justice admitted committing the killing, prosecutors said.

A trial date has not been set. Justice is due back in court Aug. 13. He remains in jail without bond.