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How Far is Too Far in the Interrogation Room?
TROY - How far is too far when it comes to what happens in the interrogation room? That's a question many are asking following the acquittal of Adrian Thomas, a Troy man once convicted of killing his 4-month old son. Thomas was found not-guilty at his retrial on Thursday, a retrial that was ordered by the State Court of Appeals after it ruled a taped confession Thomas gave to Troy Police that was used in his first trial could not be used as evidence against him in the retrial because the cops lied to him in the interrogation room.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled in the past that investigators can lie to suspects of a crime in some situations in order to gain information or a confession but the NYS Court of Appeals found that Troy Police Detectives went too far in those lies and banned the confession from being introduced as evidence in the retrial. Without, what was a key piece of evidence that led to the initial conviction, prosecutors had a much harder time proving their case.
"Devastated, this is very emotional, dealing with a child, a baby--they're devastated but they're also professionals so they'll accept the verdict and move on," says Troy Police Chief John Tedesco of the detectives who originally investigated the crime and got a confession out of Thomas. The appeals court ruled that those detectives used coercive techniques by telling Thomas he could save his son's life if he told them what he did to the child, despite the fact that the baby was already brain dead and claiming his wife would go to jail if Thomas didn't confess. " I stand behind those investigators as much today as I did then and that's 100%," Tedesco said.
The court's decision and Thursday's verdict now have police agencies across the state examining interrogation protocols, "now there's going to be a lot more challenges to interrogations, the court gave their decision but there's no guidance to the decision so what is coercive? When isn't it coercive? Maybe you can lie about A but you can't about B If that's a technique you can use to get to the truth, it's not physical, it doesn't place anyone in physical danger, you're not causing any irreparable harm and I think they need to understand the criminal element of what you're dealing with, if you get someone who is street-wise on a basic conversation like we're having...don't waste your time," Tedesco says.
The Troy Police Department will meet with the Rensselaer County District Attorney's office next week to go over policies and procedures in the interrogation room to avoid running into a situation like this in the future. The Chief says though, all of his detectives were trained in interrogation techniques by the State Department of Criminal Justice Services, so it's very likely most departments across the state will be having similar conversations with their respective prosecutors.