Attorney says agent tricked McCain into statements

Adam McCain, 25, of Fort Madison, gets transport directives from Lee County Jail coordinator John Canida after a Thursday hearing in Keokuk. McCain is being held in the Lee County Jail on first-degree murder charges in the death of 27-year-old CaLove Sackman on Feb. 5, 2019 in Keokuk. McCain's attorney James Beres is on the left. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


KEOKUK – A Fort Madison man being held in connection with a February 2019 homicide in Keokuk said he was tricked by law enforcement officers into making incriminating statements after his arrest.

Adam Golden McCain, 25, of Fort Madison is charged in the Feb. 5 stabbing of CaLove Sackman of Keokuk, in the River City Mall parking lot. Sackman was 27 at the time. McCain was taken into custody that night by a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy who stopped after discovering McCain with his disabled vehicle on a county highway.

First-degree murder suspect, Adam McCain, of Fort Madison, is escorted into the South Lee County 2nd floor courtroom Thursday morning for a hearing in front of District 8B Chief Judge Mary Ann Brown. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

At a hearing Thursday at the South Lee County Courthouse in front of District 8B Chief Judge Mary Ann Brown, McCain’s attorney, James Beres out of the Burlington Public Defenders’ office, told Brown that Special Agent Joseph Lestina with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, used “trickery” to get McCain to make incriminating remarks.

The hearing was on McCain’s motion to have all statements on the night of his arrest suppressed at his trial set for Oct. 15 in Keokuk. McCain was cuffed to body chains throughout the hearing.

“At the outset I would submit he was set up by the special agent,” Beres said during his summation.

“The special agent gives him the cellphone, suggests he make a phone call, places it on hands-free and then sits there and listens to it. He was set up. The special agent was using trickery to get additional statements from Mr. McCain is a reasonable way to look at those stats.”

Lestina testified that he offered McCain an opportunity to take the phone off hands-free and hold the phone to his ear, to which he said McCain declined.

On June 17, Beres filed a motion to suppress all the evidence from the night and early morning following McCain’s arrest. On Thursday an amended motion to suppress was filed to include statements made during the phone call.

Lestina testified that McCain attempted to reach his uncle, then his grandmother with no success, in the early morning hours of Feb. 6. However, McCain did end up getting a hold of his uncle on a second try.

Beres said allowing the call violated McCain’s rights under Iowa Code 804.2 which governs communications of those detained or arrested. The code says individuals have a right to make a reasonable amount of phone calls to contact family or an attorney and the person holding custody is to be in the room at the time the calls are made.

Miranda Rights

When Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Wade pulled up to McCain’s disabled vehicle on Feb. 5th, he was looking into a possible hit and run that occurred in Keokuk matching McCain’s vehicle description. During his conversation with McCain, LeeComm dispatchers advised that Keokuk Police were looking for someone matching McCain’s description in connection with the stabbing, and Wade took McCain into custody.

However, Lee County Attorney Ross Braden and 1st Assistant Jonathan Stensvaag, and McCain’s attorneys all signed an agreement where all sides agreed Wade didn’t Mirandize McCain.

Wade questioned McCain, and through testimony Thursday, McCain said he told Wade he was invoking his 5th amendment rights, but then answered some more of Wade’s questions.

McCain was taken to the Keokuk Police Department and then transferred to the Lee County Jail.

Wade’s body camera was submitted as exhibit 1 at the hearing. But Braden and Stensvaag agreed to a suppression of any statements made by McCain to Wade after McCain invoked his rights.

Additional questioning

McCain was then taken to the Lee County Jail where a search warrant was conducted and McCain’s clothing was taken as evidence. Lestina testified that McCain told officers he hadn’t taken drugs since May and hadn’t drank alcohol since the SuperBowl, which was on Feb. 3.

But during McCain’s testimony he said he was on 12 mg. of benzodiazapine, an anti-anxiety medication, had smoked marijuana, and was in the middle of a withdrawal from methamphetamine use.

McCain also testified he was sleep deprived and hadn’t had sleep in two days. He testified under questioning from Stensvaag that he got about four hours of sleep in a cell between his transfer to the Lee County Jail and continued questioning by Lestina and Keokuk Police Detective Steven Dray.

Dray testified Thursday that prior to beginning that questioning at the jail, McCain asked him what the penalty was for homicide. Dray told McCain they would get to that, but first he had to have his rights read to him.

Dray also testified that McCain never asked for an attorney during the questioning nor invoked his 5th amendment rights.

Beres said because McCain had endured so much questioning and was sleep deprived he didn’t voluntarily waive any rights. During questioning both Lestina and Dray said McCain did not sign a voluntary waiver of rights, but did “nod” his head affirmatively when asked if he was waiving his right to remain silent.

Brown said she would review the evidence submitted, including the testimony, Wade’s body camera, and an audio recording of the interview at the Lee County Jail, and would render a decision.

Weird twists

Beres also suggested that the court analyze whether the Iowa Constitution would uphold video taping interviews where defendants sign written waivers of Miranda.

“You want this court to analyze, for the first time, whether the Iowa Constitution requires a written waiver of Miranda Rights, and then a video of an interview of the waiver?” Brown asked.

Beres said yes, and he would like that language analyzed ultimately for all cases, but specifically high-stakes cases like murder.

At another point, Brown had to admonish McCain for speaking too much. McCain kept trying to answer a question asked by Stensvaag that was objected to by Beres and sustained. Three times McCain tried to answer before Brown insisted he stop speaking.

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