LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada jury can see the videotaped confession of a 20-year-old murder defendant who testified Friday that he was so "foggy-minded" after smoking marijuana before surrendering to police that he didn't know what he was saying about killing a Las Vegas mother of four, a judge decided.
Erich Milton Nowsch Jr. appeared "coherent, responsive and articulate" during his three-hour police interview, Clark County District Court Judge Michael Villani said after hearing testimony from Nowsch, a detective and a police officer.
"Do you remember what you said in your statement?" Nowsch was asked by his defense attorney, Augustus Claus.
"Maybe bits and pieces," Nowsch responded. He said he felt "foggy-minded" when he surrendered Feb. 19, and saw lots of police aiming their guns at him. He recalled bright lights in a room where he was questioned, and feeling cold, then hot.
"I felt sick, like I was going to puke," Nowsch testified, "... like I might pass out."
But the judge said he reviewed the video and saw no evidence that Nowsch's statement wasn't freely and voluntarily given.
Claus said later that he hadn't decided if he'll appeal Villani's ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Claus argued in court that police not only knew Nowsch was under the influence of marijuana, but that an officer talking by cellphone with the then-19-year-old Nowsch at his mother's house watched through a window and even urged Nowsch to smoke faster so he could get on with surrendering.
Officer Jeff Harper testified that Nowsch insisted the pot would calm him down, and that he told Nowsch that smoking pot was illegal. But Harper said he preferred to keep Nowsch in sight so that he could continue to see Nowsch's hands during the standoff.
Claus said blood drawn at the Clark County jail about 30 hours after Nowsch's arrest and questioning showed that Nowsch had six times the legal limit for motorists of marijuana metabolic byproducts in his system.
"Legally, Mr. Nowsch wasn't just under the influence, he was absolutely baked," Claus told the judge. "Police cannot ply people with controlled substances to elicit a confession."
Co-defendant Derrick Andrews and his lawyers were in the courtroom for Friday's evidence-suppression hearing, but they didn't testify.
Andrews, 27, and Nowsch are due for trial Oct. 19 in the Feb. 12 shooting that mortally wounded 44-year-old Tammy Meyers outside her home. Each has pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder, firing a weapon from a vehicle and conspiracy charges that could get each life in prison without parole. Each remains jailed without bail.
Andrews is accused of driving a vehicle from which Nowsch allegedly opened fire twice at Tammy Meyers and her adult son — once while they were in a vehicle several blocks from the Meyers home and one furious 24-shot fusillade in a cul-de-sac outside the Meyers home.
Police say the son, Brandon Meyers, returned fire with three shots from his registered handgun during the second shooting, but he didn't hit anything.
Prosecutor David Stanton has said the shooting appears to have resulted from a series of misunderstandings and coincidences, including Tammy Meyers' mistaken belief that the car with Nowsch and Andrews in it was the same one driven by a man who threatened her and her daughter while they drove home from a late-night driving lesson in a school parking lot. That man has never been found.
Nowsch told Detective Clifford Mogg during the taped statement that he mistook Tammy Meyers and Brandon Meyers for drug thugs who posed a threat to him, his mother and her new baby. He characterized the shooting as an accident.
"My intentions were to take someone bad out, not a loving, caring mom," Nowsch said. "My intention was to take someone who was going to hurt my family out, not someone's mom, not Tammy."