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Judge denies Miranda motion in Dawson County murder case
Daniel Lee Roberts
Daniel Lee Roberts

The judge presiding over the case of the Dawsonville man accused in Kaleb Duckworth’s 2021 death has ruled on several motions after a July 15 hearing.

In a court order filed July 27 in Dawson County Superior Court, Senior Judge David Emerson admitted into evidence Daniel Roberts’ statements to multiple officers after his apprehension last July.

Those statements include Roberts’ description of events leading up to the fight between him and Duckworth and the change in his narrative from Duckworth grabbing him to him punching the other teen because he was “running his mouth,” according to his statement to a Dawson County Sheriff’s Office investigator.

“The court finds that the defendant made all these statements freely and voluntarily after the officers informed him of his Miranda rights. They are admissible in the trial of this case,” the Miranda ruling stated. 

Previously, Emerson wrote to revoke and decline to reinstate Daniel Lee Roberts’ bonds in his 2021 and 2019 cases respectively. Roberts has been indicted on two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated battery for the 2021 case. The judge also denied bond for the 2022 case involving the latest allegations against Roberts. 

On July 25, 2021, Roberts allegedly punched the younger Dawsonville teen with a closed fist, causing serious brain damage. After the fight, Duckworth was taken to a hospital with severe brain trauma and died on July 27.

Other motions

A motion to restrict the usage of the words “murder” and “homicide” in the courtroom has been denied, according to court filings.

“The court also denies the defendant’s motion to restrict the state’s expert(s) from testifying that the decedent’s death was a homicide,” the judge’s order stated. “That is obviously part of the burden the state must carry in any murder case.”

In another order, the judge echoed Georgia law about the statutory right for the victim’s family members to be in court proceedings, writing that they have “the right to be present at all criminal proceedings in which the accused has the right to be present.”

That order elaborated that according to law, a victim or a family member cannot be excluded based on being subpoenaed unless they’re a material witness or if there’s a “substantial probability” that their presence would “impair the conduct of a fair trial.”

A motion to suppress Snapchat evidence posted by a friend of Roberts’ was denied. However, an order to suppress the results of a search of Roberts’ cell phone was granted, since all parties agreed to that during the July 15 hearing.

A decision about the defense’s prior acts motion is forthcoming.

“At this stage of the case, it does not appear that the state particularly needs this extrinsic evidence to prove that the defendant intended to hit the decedent,” the prior acts order said.

Also mentioned was that the charge of felony murder doesn’t require the “intent to kill” that a malice murder charge would.

Because the defense has filed an immunity motion related to the theory that Roberts acted in self-defense, the judge stated that he reserves final say to allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of the three sets of allegations mentioned in the prior acts motion.

During the July hearing, court dates to hear the 2021 case’s immunity, change of venue and other motions were tentatively set for Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.