Court finds police tactics unlawful, suppresses confession

The following story from New York State is related for readers of our blog in Georgia and other states, given the instant and universal applicability it lends to a very important feature of the criminal justice system whenever a person is accused of a serious crime.

Namely, that is the procedural fairness that is accorded great weight under the American system of jurisprudence. Always in theory, at least, is the central notion longstanding in our nation that persons arrested and questioned for their alleged involvement in a crime have legal rights that must be respected and protected by criminal justice officials. Absent such protections, coupled with the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty, an individual would be overwhelmed under the onslaught of state and federal power.

Unfortunately, and notwithstanding that bedrock principle, it is not always observed in reality, with the result being that a person brought before police and other government officials sometimes suffers through the exercise of abusive and unlawful activities by authorities.

That is what happened in New York, where a man ultimately confessed to murdering his wife after undergoing a 49-hour interrogation by teams of detectives without sleep or virtually any food and without a defense attorney beside him. He was sentenced to a prison term of 25 years to life.

The man confessed to killing his spouse and putting her body in a dumpster. Police found neither a dumpster nor a body.

The case recently ended up before the state’s highest court on appeal, where justices criticized the police and found the interrogation tactics to have resulted in the man’s “coerced capitulation.” The court ruled that the confession must be suppressed, and ordered a new trial.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Murder confession after 49-hour interrogation not admissible,” Daniel Wiessner, June 4, 2013