Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney update: Marathon hearing discusses evidence in upcoming trial

Pre-trial hearing in federal kidnapping case
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s been nearly three years since Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney was kidnapped and killed. The suspects, Patrick Stallworth and Derick Brown, are edging closer to their first trials. Both are charged with capital murder in state court and federal kidnapping counts. Both will first be tried separately in federal court then stand trial in state court where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Thursday, September 22, 2022, Brown appeared in federal court for a seven-hour long hearing. The defense worked to keep some statements Brown made to Birmingham Police in the initial stages of the investigation from being used as evidence in her upcoming trial.

The defense argued Brown didn’t have the adequate mental capacity to decide whether to speak to police without attorneys present. Specifically, they want to suppress the answers given to police in two interviews with police without her attorneys.

The government showed video from numerous interviews with Brown and Birmingham Police officers to indicate Brown did understand her constitutional rights, which were read to her each time before an interview. The Birmingham Police Department also requires those who waive their right to an attorney to read and sign a form to acknowledge they understand their rights, which Brown did both times in question.

The government called BPD Sargent Talana Brown to testify about her numerous interactions with Brown over the course of the investigation. As a veteran on the force, Brown said she looks for cues that someone may not understand their constitutional rights or if they are under the influence of anything that could compromise decision-making skills. She testified that Brown didn’t raise those red flags.

The defense called Dr. Henry Griffin, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist who practices in Fultondale, Alabama.

Griffin testified that Brown had a lower IQ than 98 percent of the population, according to his clinical evaluation. His report cited Brown has a severely low working memory index, brain processing speed and verbal comprehension index. Brown scored higher in perceptive reasoning.

Given the results of the evaluation, Griffin doubted whether Brown fully understood her rights prior to speaking with police.

“She did not,” Griffin answered as to whether Brown was fully aware of what she agreed to in at least two instances. “Especially considering the waiver [Brown signed] is written at a twelfth grade reading level.” Brown didn’t attend school past the eleventh grade. Griffin said it would be challenging for Brown given her lack of academic background and learning deficiencies.

“There’s consistency among her scores that either indicate that she wasn’t trying at all, which I don’t believe was the case while working with her, or that it reflects her difficulties,” Griffin explained.

Griffin was heavily questioned by District Judge Scott Coogler regarding his clinical assessments, which at moments, was challenging.

“When you roll your eyes, that is not a good thing to do to me,” Coogler said. “I have to make this decision, this is not a game.”

The government pressed Griffin on his evaluation and why he didn’t believe Brown was fully aware of her rights while speaking with police. Assistant United States Attorney Blake Milner questioned Griffin’s notes, suggesting Brown was not forthcoming with him about whether she had custody of her children and who she lived with at the time of her arrest.

“You noted she was being sexually provocative,” AUSA Milner asked Griffin.

“She made statements of a blatant sexual nature that are not common in the evaluations that I do,” Griffin replied.

The government noted early in the hearing that they received late notice the defense would call an expert witness to testify in this suppression hearing. Prosecutors suggested they too may request another psychological evaluation prior to Brown’s trial, which is slated for November.

The judge is expected to rule on this issue in the coming weeks.

Stallworth was in court in August arguing to suppress statements he made to BPD, which was denied. His trial is scheduled for October.

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