On Saturday, September 29, 2012, at 2:45 a.m., University police found Alexandra Kogut dead in her dorm room. Kogut was eighteen years old and a communications major at The College at Brockport located in Brockport, New York. A medical examiner determined that she died as a result of blunt force trauma. Clayton Whittemore, a twenty-one year old New York college student was accused of killing Kogut. Whittemore told a sheriff’s deputy he “just snapped” and beat his girlfriend with his fists and a curling iron while visiting her at college.
Whittemore detailed the killing to an officer on September 29th, after his arrest earlier that day, according to a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office report. Whittemore was arrested around 4:00 a.m. at a rest stop 100 miles away from the crime scene. Whittemore’s father said his son called him from the roadside that night and said that he did something “really bad.” “When I asked him what he did, he told me and I talked to him about turning himself in. My concern was for his safety. I was able to talk to him and I called 911. My son was cooperative and turned himself in,” stated Whittemore’s father.
Whittemore, who was on a suicide watch in jail, allegedly asked to speak with a sheriff’s deputy so he could “clear his mind” according to court documents. When the deputy asked what it was he wanted to talk about, Whittemore stated, “I killed my girlfriend,” the court documents allege. Whittemore allegedly told authorities he was visiting Kogut at her campus that weekend when they decided to go to a friend’s house to have a drink. The sheriff’s report states Whittemore said Kogut “was being rude to him the entire time” they were at the house. The report also stated that on the way back to Kogut’s dorm room, Whittemore told authorities he received an open container ticket, and that “made him angry.”
Allegedly, police said that Whittemore told them that Kogut and Whittemore began to argue about “stupid stuff” when they got back to Kogut’s dorm room. According to court documents, Whittemore said “she started pushing me and yelling at me.” Additionally Whittemore continued to talk to police and said “so I pushed her back against the wall to get her to stop. She wouldn’t stop pushing me, so I started punching her and just snapped.” Police said, according to documents, that Whittemore told them he repeatedly hit Kogut with his fists and was trying to kill Kogut.
“Her breathing sounded bad, like there was blood or something blocking her breathing,” authorities said Whittemore told them. “I didn’t want the girl I loved to suffer, so I started beating her with a curling iron until the noise stopped,” Whittemore said, according to the report. Whittemore also allegedly stated he knew Kogut was dead when he left the dorm room. “I wasn’t even drunk, I just snapped,” Whittemore told police, the documents state.
Whittemore’s attorney, John Leonard, told The Utica Observer-Dispatch that in regards to the sheriff’s report, “These are not facts—these are statements allegedly made by our client to some officer. We don’t know what stress he was under, how long he had been up, the circumstances under which they were made—if they were even made—or how accurate they are. These are not facts. Facts come out on the witness stand.” Because it is yet to be determined whether Whittemore’s multiple statements will be admissible at trial, Leonard is concerned of the hardship of finding an impartial jury as “details are out there for the whole world to see.” Leonard also said, “We have only just now been given a good deal of material regarding statements taken from Mr. Whittemore subsequent to his arrest. We need to examine that and review it with him. Obviously, we cannot comment on any of that at this time. ”
Because it is yet to be seen whether these statements will be suppressed from a possible trial, Leonard said it would be hard to select an impartial jury now that these details are “out there for the whole world to see.”Because it is yet to be seen whether these statements will be suppressed from a possible trial, Leonard said it would be hard to select an impartial jury now that these details are “out there for the whole world to see.”Because it is yet to be seen whether these statements will be suppressed from a possible trial, Leonard said it would be hard to select an impartial jury now that these details are “out there for the whole world to see.”The Utica Observer-Dispatch reports Whittemore pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Monroe County Court on Thursday, October 25, 2012. He is currently being held without bail at the Monroe County Jail and is due back in court on December 18, 2012. Whittemore’s trial could be as early as March of 2013. Whittemore could face up to twenty-five years to life in prison if convicted of murder.
It is not surprising to see that Kogut’s murder was highly publicized as it is only one of many recent college associated murders this year. That being said, defense attorney Leonard has a right to be concerned whether alleged statements made by Whittemore will be admissible at trial; and how the media’s ability to print these alleged statements will impact Whittemore’s ability to obtain a fair and impartial jury. Whittemore’s defense counsel will not only need to discuss these alleged statements with Whittemore; but also take a good look at how the statements were made and under what conditions. For example, a court will look at whether law enforcement read Whittemore his Miranda rights. Among others, the court may consider whether (1) the defendant was in custody, which in this case Whittemore was in jail; and (2) whether the defendant was being interrogated by law enforcement. The admissibility of any of the alleged statements by Whittemore would have a great impact on how Whittemore is judged by a jury of his peers.
Junior Blog Editor, Criminal Law Brief