DINWIDDIE (AP) A videotape released Tuesday shows a sheriff in a rural Virginia county using a racial slur during the interrogation of a slaying suspect.
The sheriff defended the use of the offensive word as a law enforcement interrogation technique, but a prosecutor condemned the language.
“You don’t sell your soul to get on the level of a criminal defendant,” Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill told the Associated Press. “It is selling your soul. It is unnecessary.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday that it obtained the video showing Dinwiddie County Sheriff D.T. “Duck” Adams using the slur twice.
Adams used the offensive word while interrogating Michael Edward Elmore in September 2013 in connection with the slaying of 70-year-old Carter Bascon Northington. Elmore was later convicted in Northington’s slaying and was sentenced to a life term.
Adams said Elmore used the slur first.
The sheriff said, “I repeated what he said because any police officer knows that when you’re in an interrogation, you have to use their words in order to get on their level to get a confession.”
Adams contends the release of the video was a political ploy to oust him. He’s up for re-election next month in Dinwiddie, a rural county located about an hour south of Richmond.
“It is the dirtiest politics somebody can play on anybody that is running for public office,” Adams told the newspaper. “I was in an interrogation, and they want to take the words he used that I repeated and try to make something out of that.”
Adams had left work and did not immediately return a telephone call from the AP on Tuesday. The clerk’s office at Dinwiddie Circuit Court said the interrogation was used at Elmore’s trial one year ago and was available on DVD.
While Adams said his interrogation secured Elmore’s confession, Baskervill credited the lead investigator. She also said there was forensic evidence linking Elmore to the slaying and his own damaging testimony at trial.
Baskervill declined to say whether Adams should resign, but said he should apologize. When the video was played at Elmore’s trial, she said, “It made me physically ill as I heard it. There is no room for that kind of language in justice.”
As for Elmore’s claim that the interrogation video’s release was politically motivated, she said, “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be discussing. I think it’s a fair issue to be raised.”