Posted on August 12, 2019

Attorneys for Man Accused of Killing Mollie Tibbetts Argue That His Rights Were Violated

Anna Spoerre, Des Moines Register, August 8, 2019

Attorneys representing the man accused of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts are adding to their argument that their client’s rights were violated under questioning by law enforcement.


Bahena Rivera’s attorneys, Chad and Jennifer Frese, filed a 29-page motion in March in which they said that Bahena Rivera was not told about his right to an attorney or his right to decline to cooperate until hours into his 12-hour-long interview with law enforcement. They argued that any confession he made was thus involuntary.

Bahena Rivera, 24, was charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Tibbetts, 20, after authorities said he led investigators to her body in a rural Poweshiek County cornfield. Bahena Rivera, a farmhand, confessed to abducting Tibbetts while she was on a run on July 18, 2018, outside of her central Iowa hometown of Brooklyn, investigators have said.

The new filing emphasizes the undocumented immigrant’s status as a “Mexican national,” arguing that he should have been put in contact with the Mexican consulate early on during the interview process, and that, when his Miranda rights were read several hours into the interview, they were not read in their entirety.


Defense again argues violation of Miranda rights


Under the long-standing precedent best known as Miranda, individuals must be told they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can be used against them in court, and that that they have the right to a present attorney, whether court-appointed or not, prior to questioning — if the interview is to be used as evidence in court.

“In this case, it is readily apparent that the Spanish-language warning did not meet the requirements,” the Freses wrote, adding that the officer did not properly affirm that Bahena Rivera understood his rights.

They called the warning that was given to him “deficient,” adding that Bahena Rivera said that, if he’d been told he could contact the Mexican consulate, he wouldn’t have given any statements before speaking with that office.

The attorneys also said the episode was best described as an interrogation of Bahena Rivera, pointing out that during the several hours he was “isolated,” six officers spoke to him.


They also wrote that officers used the Reid Technique, an accusatory interrogation tactic in which investigators tell their suspect that it’s clear the person committed the crime. The Freses wrote that this tactic was coercive and has the potential to lead to false and misleading statements.

Attorneys say Mexican consulate should have been contacted

The defense attorneys also wrote about Bahena Rivera’s role as a “foreigner,” citing an international treaty that says officials are under the “obligation to inform a foreign national without delay of the right to consular notification and communication attaches whenever a foreigner is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner,” court records show.


The court filings went on to describe how about 15 agents and officers descended on Yarrabee Farms on Aug. 18 at which time they gathered all Hispanic employees and took DNA samples after announcing that they were not from “immigration,” the court document says.