One Murder Charge Dismissed Against 8 Year Old
On Thursday, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the murder conviction of an Arizona man who confessed his guilt to the police when he was 17 after being interrogated for twelve hours in the absence of an attorney or parent. Considering the coercive nature of the persistent questioning and the boy's age, the court decided (pdf) the confession was involuntary and should not have been used as evidence. The decision represents a victory for the Constitution as well as his appellate lawyer, Alan Dershowitz.
The principle that the police cannot induce a confession by using coercive tactics to overcome a suspect's free will is particularly significant when the suspect is a juvenile. Children are easily influenced and therefore need greater protection to assure they make a voluntary choice to respond to police questioning. What, then, were the police in Apache County, Arizona thinking when they interrogated an 8 year old about the shooting of his father without arranging the presence of an attorney or adult relative to protect the child's rights?
That blunder may explain a prosecutor's decision to dismiss one of the murder charges he had filed against the 8 year old. A second charge is still pending. [more ...]
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