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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ind. Decisions - "Supreme Court bars police claims of racist juries to win confessions"

Dan Carden of the NWI Times reports on the Supreme Court's decision yesterday in McLynnerd Bond, Jr. v. State of Indiana (ILB summary here). Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS | Police officers attempting to obtain a confession absolutely cannot mislead a suspected criminal into believing that he or she will not receive a fair trial due to race, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a 5-0 decision, the state's high court threw out the murder confession of a Gary man, concluding his admission of guilt was improperly influenced by a Gary detective who told him a black man can't get a fair trial in Crown Point.

Justice Steven David, writing for the court, acknowledged police have many tactics at their disposal to induce a confession, but suggesting to a suspect the judicial system is inherently racist crosses the line.

"This was an intentional misrepresentation of rights ensconced in the very fabric of our nation's justice system — the rights to a fair trial and an impartial jury, and the right not to be judged by or for the color of your skin — carried out as leverage to convince a suspect in a criminal case that his only recourse was to forego his claim of innocence and confess," David said. "We condemn it."

The Supreme Court said it's not enough merely to disapprove of the detective's remarks while allowing the practice to continue, as the Court of Appeals did May 31, 2013, in its 2-1 ruling permitting the confession to stand.

"A firm line" must be drawn so as to not "tacitly countenance the erosion of everything so many have worked so hard to achieve in the realm of racial equality in the justice system," David said.

"All courts must remain vigilant to eradicate any last vestiges of the days in which a person's skin color defined their access to justice." * * *

Lake Superior Judge Diane Ross Boswell said she had "great concern" about a detective telling a suspect he couldn't receive a fair trial due to the location of the courthouse.

But she denied Bond's motion to suppress his confession, because she could find no similar case invalidating a confession based on police suggestions of possible jury bias.

The Supreme Court said in its ruling it understood Boswell's predicament and issued its decision, in part, to set a precedent for judges to follow in similar future cases.

[More] Here is Tim Evans' story from the Indianapolis Star.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 14, 2014 10:42 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions