Court Weighs Police Role in Coercing Confessions


#1

NY Times:

Court Weighs Police Role in Coercing Confessions

New York State’s highest court heard arguments in two murder cases on Tuesday that plumbed the question of how far the police can go in lying to suspects during interrogations — even to the point of telling suspects a dead victim is still alive, but might survive if they confess to precise details of the crime.

The question being considered by the Court of Appeals focused on when a police officer’s lies in an interview room cross a line and become coercion. It is a question that has gained attention in legal circles recently, as more false convictions based on coerced confessions have come to light in high-profile cases like the Central Park Five.
“What is acceptable pressure?” Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman asked Kelly L. Egan, a lawyer representing the Rensselaer County district attorney’s office. “What’s O.K. and what’s not O.K. in terms of deception?”

Mr. Lippman was asking about the case of Adrian Thomas, who was convicted in 2009 of murdering his infant son on the strength of a confession he made after detectives in Troy, N.Y., lied to him repeatedly during a long interrogation. Found listless in his crib, the boy, Matthew, was taken a hospital with pneumonia and a severe infection. Doctors also found evidence on X-rays of severe head trauma and told the police of their findings.

Among other things, the Troy detectives told Mr. Thomas repeatedly that the baby’s condition was an accident and that he would not be arrested. Several times they threatened to arrest his wife if he did not confess to abusing the baby, prompting him to say he would “take the rap.” Later they told him his son, who was already brain-dead, might die if he did not help doctors by describing how he hurt the boy.

After two days, Mr. Thomas admitted he had thrown the infant down onto a bed forcefully three times and had hit the baby’s head accidentally against his crib. The boy would soon be declared dead. Convicted at trial of depraved indifference murder, Mr. Thomas is now serving a 25-year-to-life term in prison.

An appellate court in Albany upheld Mr. Thomas’s conviction, ruling the tactics the Troy police had employed “were not of the character as to induce a false confession.”

1.) the police are not your friend. If you are ever arreseted or interrogated don’t say anything and demand a lawyer.
2.) police and prosecutors don’t care if they convict the actual perp just as long as they convict somebody.
3.) the popular myth is that defense attorneys are scumbags who get criminals off on “technicalities” (aka the Constitution). DAs are just as scummy.


#2

Nice post.


#3

i watch a lot shows based on true crimes and it shocks me what the police are able to get away with as far as telling lies in the interrogation room. i can understand how innocent people have been charged and convicted. i feel the court is past due for weighing in. i want the bad guy caught and i don’t want innocent people coerced into false confessions,


#4

1.) the police are not your friend. If you are ever arreseted or interrogated don’t say anything and demand a lawyer.
2.) police and prosecutors don’t care if they convict the actual perp just as long as they convict somebody.
3.) the popular myth is that defense attorneys are scumbags who get criminals off on “technicalities” (aka the Constitution). DAs are just as scummy.

Interesting video: youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

That’s a lecture by a law professor entitled “Don’t Talk to the Police.” One of his best points is that people forget that ‘anything you say can and will be used against you.’ Nothing you say in interrogation will be used in court to support your case. For example, if the police ask you ‘where were you last Thursday at 7 PM’ and you say you were at the gym, but in fact in turns out you left the gym at 6, an easy thing to forget or mistake, the detective can be called in court to say that you ‘lied’ about your whereabouts, damaging one’s credibility in the eyes of the jury.

Too man prosecutors feel their job is just to get convictions, rather than to find the truth. Glad to see the court weighing in finally.


#5

Most cops and DA’s are honest and do there jobs fairly. Believe it or not many confessions are obtained by offering the suspect coffee and cigarettes. There have been abuses and that should be curtailed, but 95% of cops want to catch the actual criminal and are not out to just pin a crime on anybody. A good show to watch is The First 48 on A&E TV that follows detectives investigating murders.


#6

yes, i like the" first 48 hours" and “watching the detectives” is also good. i believe most cops and da’s are honest, but if there is anything to put in place to stop the abuses, it should be done. i have heard of evidence being withheld as well as the lies the police will tell perhaps about evidence being found that never was, but the poor guy being investigated doesn’t know that.


#7

I would like to think that most police are basically good people and are more interested in solving a crime than getting an arrest.
I am not sure it is a bad thing that a parent that abused his baby to death shouldn’t be serving a long sentence, if the abuse was the cause of death.


#8

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