Monday, August 30, 2010

Jessica's Law conviction reversed based on coercive police interview

Ryan Eddinger won in State v. Stone, No. 100,076 (Kan. Aug. 20, 2010), obtaining a new trial in a Sedgwick County “Jessica’s Law” prosecution. The KSC reversed Stone’s conviction for aggravated indecent liberties with a child, holding that a tape recording of the police interrogation of him should not have been admitted into evidence.

The court held that Detective Kelly Mar’s interviewing techniques rendered Stone’s statement inadmissible:

The detective's repeated insistence that the truth could only be the version told by the victim, combined with her unequivocal statements that there was semen on the victim's pajamas and her belief that the DNA in it would match Stone's, followed by statements to the effect that only confessing could keep him out of jail or affect the length of his jail term made the circumstances unduly coercive. Moreover, a close examination of the interrogation reveals that Stone did not volunteer facts but rather he adopted facts as they were suggested to him by the detective and as her insistence that he tell "the truth" became more adamant.

. . .

Another tactic used by Detective Mar involved minimizing the seriousness of the accusations against Stone and indicating that a confession would corroborate that he was not a child sex predator[.]

. . .

These statements cumulatively and strongly suggested to Stone that only confessing to the "truth" as the detective saw it would save him from being painted as a "preying pedophile" and, in turn, affect his sentence.

The court held that the cumulative effect of Detective Mar’s interviewing techniques rendered Stone’s statement inadmissible:

While any one of the circumstances surrounding this interrogation, standing alone—Stone's condition, Detective Mar's misleading statements about the semen on the pajama top, her statements that the length of his sentence could only be affected by his telling the "truth," the implications he would be viewed as a sexual predator unless he confessed—might not have led us to conclude Stone's statements were coerced, a review of the audio recording taking into account all of these circumstances, as the law requires, leads us to conclude as a matter of law that Stone's statements were not the product of his free and independent will and that it was error to admit them at trial.

Based on the improper admission of the statement into evidence, the court reversed Stone's convictions and remanded for a new trial.

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