Jury may not hear 'smoking gun' audio tape in Bartlett murder case

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Bartlett man accused of killing his wife and then trying to cover it up confessed to the crime inside a police station with a tape recorder rolling, but he confessed to his father.  Can that confession be used in court?

The taped confession could be a prosecutor's dream, but if Pate's attorney has his way, a jury will never hear it.

Thomas Pate was interrogated by Bartlett police for hours the day after his wife Micah disappeared, but he refused to tell investigators what happened.

"I'm not saying anything until I talk to my dad," he can be heard saying on an interrogation audio tape. "I mean, I'm not gonna tell you my name. I want to talk to my dad."

When Thomas Pate, Senior got into the interrogation room, a Bartlett detective listened as Thomas Pate, Junior confessed to shooting his wife.  Through tears he described it as an accident.

"She stepped right in front of me and she fell down, and I asked if she was okay and she didn't move," the younger Pate says on the tape.

Pate's father told his son the confession wouldn't hold up in a court of law.  

"You did not do this intentionally, okay? You made a boo boo. Shut up we'll handle it, okay?  We will get through this," he says on the tape.

Defense Attorney Leslie Ballin says Bartlett detective Kevin Martin should have warned Pate and his son that the conversation would in fact go on record.  Ballin has filed a motion to have the tape kept from a jury when Thomas Pate goes on trial for first degree murder in August.

A judge will rule on June 11th about whether the confession can be entered as evidence for the jury to consider.

Pate's trial is scheduled for August 2.

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