Alberto Palmer pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder charges in the death of 18-year-old Brittany Clardy after his attorney said he was coerced into making statements describing the killing.
Palmer, 24, is charged with premeditated murder and murder with criminal sexual conduct in Clardy's death 13 months ago. He allegedly struck the St. Paul woman several times in the head with a hammer after having sex with her at a home in Brooklyn Park. Her frozen body was discovered in her car in a Columbia Heights impound lot in February 2013, eight days after it was towed there.
A Sept. 8 trial date was set by Anoka County District Judge Daniel O'Fallon, who will decide in May whether statements Palmer gave to investigators are admissible at trial.
Shawn Webb, Palmer's public defender, said investigators coerced Palmer into making statements by telling him that his ultimate sentence would determine how often he might see his young daughter again.
"Your inevitable goal is to do what?" Brooklyn Park Det. Russ Czapar asked Palmer the day after his arrest, according to a transcript of the recorded interviews that were read in court Thursday.
"My goal is to see my daughter, but I know it's not going to happen," Palmer said, according to the transcript.
Palmer also is charged in Hennepin County with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Klaressa Cook, 24, a Georgia native whose body was found last May in a car in a Minneapolis impound lot.
On Thursday, with Clardy's sister and a friend in the courtroom, Palmer listened as Anoka County sheriff's investigator Michael Lapham said that he read Palmer his Miranda rights after his arrest on March 6, 2013, at a relative's home in Woodbury.
Palmer's grandmother was in the room at the time of the arrest, and his daughter, then 2, was in a police vehicle.
Lapham said Palmer told his grandmother: "I know I'm going away forever. I'm not going to see you anymore."
He cried at the mention of his daughter, Lapham told the court. "He was cooperative, willing to engage in conversation," Lapham said. "I could tell he was genuinely upset."
At one point, Palmer mentioned his daughter to Lapham and said that he feared he would never see, touch, smell or hug her, Lapham testified.
"I know I don't have to talk with you," Palmer said, according to Lapham's testimony. "I'm doing this because I want to cooperate."
But Webb, the public defender, questioned the methods used to induce Palmer into answering the investigators' questions. He asked Lapham whether he had been trained to get "confessions" from interviewees, and Lapham said he had.
Lapham testified that Palmer was never pressured or intimidated.
He said Palmer was told that authorities might "give you the opportunity to get a lesser crime charged," which Webb later called a "strategy."