Court Tosses Confessions Over Cops' Lies: News Reports

A Westchester resident is one of two men convicted of homicide whose confessions were in effect coerced, New York state's highest court has ruled.

The New York State Court of Appeals says that New Rochelle police detectives' lies to a suspect in a heroin overdose case were unacceptable.

The state's highest court's decision Feb. 20 concerned two cases in which police lied to men they were interrogating. In both cases, the lies involved telling a suspect that a loved one was alive when in fact one had ODd and the other was brain-dead. 

In both cases, records including videos showed detectives repeating and refining the lies throughout the interrogations. The court found that after a certain level, the lies could "overwhelm [a] defendant's free will," Newsday reported. 

The appeals of both cases were closely watched as the justices considered "what is and what is not an acceptable level of deception and coercion during interrogations," according to the Huffington Post.

The New Rochelle case involved resident Paul Aveni.

Summing up the case on his Huffington Post blog, law professor Steve Drizin said, "Aveni's girlfriend, Angela Camillo, died of a drug overdose on Jan. 12, 2009, in Aveni's mother's home. Detectives from the New Rochelle Police Department arrested Aveni and brought him to the stationhouse for questioning. At that time, detectives knew something that Aveni didn't -- that Camillo had died. To get Aveni to confess to injecting Camillo with a lethal cocktail of drugs, detectives lied to Aveni, telling him that she was alive and that her doctors might be able to save her if Aveni told them which drugs he had injected her with."

Aveni then told the detectives he had given Camillo Zanax and heroin. He was charged and prosecuted by the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. He was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Drizin said when the appellate court heard Aveni's appeal, the judges agreed that the confession had been coerced with the implicit threat that if he didn't help save Camillo's life he could be charged with homicide.

With this decision by New York's highest court, Aveni's case goes back to the appellate division, Newsday said.

The Westchester District Attorney's Office had no public reaction. "As the case is over, we don't care to comment," said spokesman Lucian Chalfen.

The second case involved Adrian Thomas, a man whose son had just died. Police told him the 4-month-old was still alive and doctors needed details of how he had been injured to save his life. 

According to Drizin, "The recording of Thomas' interrogation shows how the Rochester detectives systematically broke Thomas' will by threatening to charge his wife if he did not confess, lying to him about the medical causes of his son's injuries (telling him that the doctors determined that his son had suffered a skull fracture as a result of a high-impact head injury), and suggesting to him that his son's death was just an accident. After Thomas finally admitted to "dropping the baby" on the bed, detectives then coached him to act out just how hard he "threw" his child on the bed."

In fact, medical records showed later the boy did not die of injuries but of sepsis from a bad infection, Drizin said.

Ct3408 February 23, 2014 at 05:29 PM
Pam, you might want to leave the internet - the haven of conspiracy -- and read some reputable news sources -- or listen to a few. In fact, to lie to a police officer who is investigating a crime is a illegal and a misdemeanor in most states. I know some states are considering raising it to a felony. As for visiting the local justice courts, I have done so and know some very good, competent people in the DA's office. And as to your question -- you might read the Times, the Journal, the Economist, or listen to NPR or the BBC to delve into that question -- in fact, many people who are innocent are convicted and many are put to death through the use of "eyewitness" accounts or coerced confessions. The next layer is the level of institutional racism with blacks being convicted at higher rates than whites -- or receiving harsher sentences. What about those who can't afford an expensive lawyer in the American system? They certainly don't receive the same type of justice. Unfortunately, the "war on crime" (which I supported in the 80s) has swung the pendulum to the opposite side and now we find ourselves in a position where the strong, not just long, arm of the law is overly punitive and dangerously powerful. We also know from John Yoo's thesis on executive power that, regardless of the party in power, no executive has even given up on the power achieved by the previous executive -- regardless of the campaign rhetoric. So, rather than throwing a silly, ill-informed stone at a legitimate comment, you might want to do some research yourself -- and I mean read, as I have for 20 years, on the topic.
Ct3408 February 23, 2014 at 05:35 PM
BTW -= here is a good quote from the Daily News for you -- not my favorite paper, but it is a good example: Jamie Climie has been arrested for allegedly lying to police after claiming her cellphone with the pictures had been stolen. New York Daily News
Pam Green February 23, 2014 at 06:38 PM
Ct- I'm sorry. I was unaware that I was in the presence of an elitist member of academia, in the trenches of the four walls of a classroom. When you seek out the police and falsely report an incident, yes that's a problem. The issue here was being interrogated for a crime and the suspect somehow not being allowed to lie to the police. Not illegal. I thought liberals were supposed to be open minded, not judgmental. Your quote,"Cops want convictions, not truth or what is right." That is a pretty broad brush. Hopefully your students will be open minded enough to think for themselves.
Ct3408 February 23, 2014 at 07:39 PM
Ah, name-calling. What is it about people hating others for simply reading and thinking for themselves? Next time you are involved with a police investigation of a crime, go ahead and lie and see what happens. Obstruction of justice, obstructing governmental administration, etc. But you seem to know the law and think that all police and governmental employees are looking out for you, the citizen. Even when we are in court, we have to deal with the perjury of officers: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/why-police-officers-lie-under-oath.html
Alex Umrichin February 23, 2014 at 10:20 PM
You can't outright lie to the police if they are in the course of an investigation however there is also no requirement that you say anything at all unless you have an attorney present. It is perfectly legal for police to lie to you, which is a good thing to keep in mind. If you ever feel in the least bit uncomfortable with questions that police are asking it is in your best interests to say nothing at all no matter what kind of threats they may make.


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