The Court Of Appeals Will Consider How Far Is To Far In Police Interrogation By Michael Joseph on January 23, 2014

Our White Plains criminal defense lawyers have handled many cases where confessions were at issue and have seen the manipulative tactics that police departments use. For many years the Courts have taken the view that if someone confesses, they must have been guilty and have bent over backwards to keep the confession from being suppressed. The Courts have condoned every low ball tactic by the police including lying, pressuring the suspect, sleep deprivation and using all types of manipulative and coercive tactics to obtain a confession by any means necessary. Unfortunately many people confess to the police just to stop the interrogation and don’t realize that they are sealing their own fate. To avoid being subjected to these type of high pressure brutish tactics, our New York criminal defense attorneys highly recommend calling a lawyer as soon as there has been any contact from the police.

With more and more confessions being exposed as having been obtained by questionable tactics and being exposed as having caused innocent people to confess to crimes they didn’t actually commit, the New York Court of Appeals is considering just how far is too far. A confession carries a high risk of conviction, regardless of how it was obtained. Most common jurors assume if someone confessed they must be guilty.

In one case that the Court is considering, a man was interrogated for over nine hours straight during which time he maintained his innocence, but only confessed after the police repeatedly lied to him and threatening to arrest his wife for the murder of their baby. The child was born pre-mature and suffered from a number of life threatening illnesses and there was a high probability that the child’s death was from natural causes and the father confessed to keep his wife, who had other children from being arrested and subjected to the same brutal interrogation that he was subjected to. The police targeted the father when the doctor wrongly diagnosed the baby with a fractured skull that he didn’t actually have. In this case, the Court upheld a 25 year sentence and conviction because it found that the police activities did not create a substantial risk of a false confession. The Court then bootstrapped the defense by precluding their expert, a psychologist who was prepared to offer testimony that these types of mind games by the police were likely to cause an innocent person to falsely confess to a crime.

In another case, the New York State Second Department Appellate Court held that the New Rochelle police crossed a line when they led a suspect to believe that the victim was alive. In this case, the Westchester Supreme Court, which as a rule looks to deny defense motions to suppress, no matter how egregious the police behavior is, denied the confession where the detectives told the suspect, whose girlfriend had died from an overdose that she was still alive and that he would be charged with homicide if he didn’t tell the detectives what drugs she took. The Appellate Court held that the detectives not only repeatedly deceived the defendant by telling him that his girlfriend was alive, but implicitly threatened him with a homicide charge because if he remained silent, his silence would lead to her death, since the physicians would be unable to treat her, which could be a problem for him. Thus the Court held that the New Rochelle police told the suspect that his remaining silent would lead to his girlfriend’s death and he would be charged with homicide.

Our Westchester criminal defense attorneys hope that the Court of Appeals sets some limits to police egregious behavior and hopefully it will prevent some wrongful convictions in the future.

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