Adrian Thomas was convicted of murdering his 4-month old son Matthew. The conviction relied in part on a confession that Adrian Thomas made during a 9-hour interrogation during which he was lied to and coercively threatened by police investigators. Despite the fact that other evidence may indicate guilt, there is no ethical, moral, or logical excuse for these police tactics.
This is a significant decision relative to false confessions.
The story from the Albany, NY Times Union follows:
Court of Appeals reverses Adrian Thomas murder conviction
Posted on February 20, 2014 | By Robert Gavin
In a potentially landmark ruling, the state’s highest court on Thursday unanimously overturned the murder conviction of Adrian Thomas,
who was convicted in 2009 of killing his 4-month-old son in Troy, and blocked his statements from any retrial.
Thomas is serving 25 years to life in Auburn Correctional Facility for second-degree murder.
Thursday’s 7-0 decision followed arguments before the Court of Appeals on Jan. 14 during which attorneys for Thomas, 31, questioned the extent that police lied to the defendant while questioning him about the condition of his son. Thomas was interviewed by Troy police for more than nine hours in what his attorney, Jerome K. Frost, said was a cruel hoax.
Police are allowed to lie to suspects, but not to the extent that a confession is given involuntarily. To secure Thomas’ confession, a Troy police sergeant told Thomas his confession was needed to save the life of his son, Matthew, whose death was a certainty.
On Thursday, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote that evidence was sufficient to convict Thomas, but that the case must be sent back for retrial because “we conclude that defendant’s inculpating statements were not demonstrably voluntary.”
On Jan. 14, Frost told Court of Appeals that police falsely told his client 67 separate times that they knew the baby’s injuries were accidental — and 140 times that he would not be charged. A key part of Thomas’ appeal was his lawyers’ argument that the trial judge should have allowed an expert on false confessions and police interrogation techniques to testify on his client’s behalf. The judge rejected it.
“The rule is you don’t threaten a person’s vital interests, such as the freedom of his spouse, taking away his children,” Frost had argued.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court upheld Thomas’ conviction in 2012