June 17, 2014

Adrian Thomas Acquitted

On Thursday, June 12, a jury in Rensselaer County found Adrian Thomas not guilty of the killing of his infant son. He was freed after having spent the past six years in prison. The case is most notable for Thomas's coerced confession, original conviction, and eventual the 7-0 Court of Appeals decision that the confession was improperly obtained.

I have written previously about Adrian Thomas, how police in Troy, New York, had lied to Thomas to induce him to confess to murdering his infant son. For instance, officers told him that his son was alive but doctors needed to know precisely how his injuries had occurred if they were to save him when, in fact, the boy had already been declared brain dead, and that they would charge his wife with murder if Thomas did not admit to beating the boy to death. Ultimately, the New York Court of Appeals vacated the conviction, finding that it “completely undermined” Thomas’ right to remain silent using “highly coercive deceptions.”

In the retrial, prosecutors could not introduce the coerced confession, which appears to have gutted their case. In his defense, Thomas put on medical experts who testified that the boy died from a bacterial infection, not because of any actions by his father. (See here). The jurors ultimately agreed that, based on the record before them, Thomas was not guilty.

The ten hour interrogation -- and the way in which false confessions can be artfully coaxed from suspects -- was the subject of a the well received documentary "Scenes of a Crime," which culminates with Thomas's original conviction.

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