NEW YORK -- The videotaped confession of preppie murder suspect Robert Chambers can be viewed by the public and the news media because parts of it were released by the defense.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Manhattan Wednesday overturned a ruling by the trial judge barring release of the statement, but gave the judge 24 hours to appeal the decision to the state's highest court. The judge decided not to appeal the decision but Chambers' lawyer, who is trying to throw out the statement, said he would announce later today whether he would appeal.
Defense attorney Jack Litman argues that the 'tainted' confession should not be released immediately before jury selection if it may never be used at the trial.
But the five-judge appellate panel unanimously ruled that state Supreme Court Justice Howard Bell must allow the news media and the public to see the hourlong videotape where Chambers admits killing Jennifer Dawn Levin, 18, Aug. 26, 1986, but says the killing was an accident during rough sex.
Meanwhile, another pretrial hearing focused on a police officer's identification of Chambers at the Central Park precinct when he was brought in for questioning.
Police Officer James McCreary claims to have recognized the young man from the scene of the crime.
McCreary said he saw Chambers sitting on a wall near where the victim's lifeless body lay as police investigated the scene early that morning.
Litman claims the officer's identification of Chambers at the precinct was an illegal 'show-up' and should not be admissable as evidence. The prosecutor argues it was not planned.
Chambers, 20, a former altar boy who attended some of the most exclusive schools in the New York metropolitan area, has been charged with second-degree murder in connectin with the incident, which took place in Central Park.
He claims he accidentally killed Levin. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Chambers says she tied his hands behind his back with her panties and 'molested him.'
In an effort to get the indictment thrown out because of misconduct by the prosecutor, Chambers' lawyer released part of the videotaped statement the young man gave to authorities shortly after his arrest Aug. 27.
The appeals court said a ban on the news media and public at the pretrial hearing about that confession and a web of lies Chambers told police before admitting his role in the young woman's death violated their constitutional rights.
The judges noted that Litman 'by his own conduct has undercut the position on which he now relies.'
'It appears that the defendant, through his counsel, has made detailed statements to the public and press disclosing most, if not all, of the information he now seeks to keep secret,' the panel said.
'If our ruling in this matter discourages the bar from trying cases in the pressroom instead of the courtroom, it is a consequence which does not cause us dismay,' the five judges said.
Litman had no immediate comment on the ruling. Chambers, who is free on $150,000 in the murder case, said nothing.