Government Weighs Government Role in Coercing Confessions ( From Innocent Citizens )

By Clark


donkeyrock
shared this story
from Popehat.

The original headline is “Court Weighs Police Role in Coercing Confessions”, but I like mine a bit better.

http://www.nytimes.com

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.

Of course, the boy was already dead, and the detectives lied to the father, basically promising him that his son would live if he agreed to the fiction that he had done it, even if he hadn’t.

After two days of interrogation, the father broke down, and agreed to the police lie, to save the life of his son and the freedom of his wife.

He is now serving a life sentence.

The judges were not with out sympathy. Oh, they had sympathy aplenty:

During arguments, several judges — among them Judge Lippman, Robert S. Smith and Eugene F. Pigott — expressed sympathy for Mr. Thomas’s contention that his confession was made under unfair pressure.

But sympathy only goes so far. There’s precedent to worry about, and if innocent men have to go to jail to uphold precent, well, then, government employees understand the relative importance of these two things:

“We have precedent that says the police can use deception,” Judge Victoria A. Graffeo said. “What we are trying to figure out is when you enter this area of inappropriate pressure?”

“Don’t threaten to arrest people’s wives whom you know are innocent,” Mr. Frost answered.

“That’s a narrow rule,” Judge Pigott said.

Still, the judges are positively Solomonic compared to the prosecutor.

Ms. Egan… insisted the detectives had done nothing that would cast doubt on the veracity of Mr. Thomas’s statement.

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