The Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments next week about whether a Hall County judge should have allowed a jury to hear a 15-year-old’s confession to fatally shooting a man.
Chaz Gregory Stringer, now 19, is serving a life sentence in the June 2006 murder of Victor “Charlie” Gallegos de la Rosa, who was shot to death in an attempted armed robbery of Garcia’s restaurant on Athens Street.
Stringer confessed to shooting Gallegos de la Rosa in an interview recorded by Gainesville police. He did not have an attorney present but his mother was with him during the interview and he signed a juvenile waiver of his Miranda rights to remain silent.
Stringer’s attorney, Brian Steel, unsuccessfully argued prior to the trial that the recording of the interview was not admissible because of what an officer told Stringer.
While trying to get the teen to open up, Gainesville Police Investigator Kevin Gaddis told the teen, “I’m trying to help you,” which Stringer took to mean he could help secure a more lenient sentence, his lawyer claimed.
Judge Kathlene Gosselin denied the motion to suppress the statement and a jury heard the recording, in which Stringer eventually broke down, saying, “I did it.”
Stringer confessed immediately after his mother told him the restaurant had surveillance cameras. He did not know when he admitted to the shooting that the victim had died.
During the trial, Stringer claimed he made a false confession to cover up for an older teen in order to win favor in a gang. A Hall County jury found him guilty of murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Stringer will be eligible for parole after serving 14 years.
Stringer’s attorney also is appealing his conviction on the grounds that the statement was inadmissible because his client was detained illegally without probable cause.
Prosecutors, in court documents, maintain Stringer’s arrest was valid and his statement was voluntary. The state contends that the officer never held out any hope of benefit to Stringer during the interview.
The high court will hear arguments Tuesday and rule on the appeal at a later time.