U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Teens Win Coerced Confession Case

Judge Diane Wood must be over it with coercive police interrogations.

Writing for the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, she reviewed a complaint by teenagers who allegedly confessed to murdering their uncle. Calling out the cops facing civil liability in the case, Wood sets off every so-called "confession" in parentheses.

"Even though William and Deadra 'confessed,' if a trier of fact could conclude that the officers knew that the confessions were false, then the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity for their actions," the court said in Hurt v. Wise.

No Immunity

Andrea, Deadra and William Hurt -- teen-aged siblings -- sued the police who arrested them for the murder of Marcus Golike. After finding his body on the banks of the Ohio River, officers questioned the youths as part of a homicide investigation.

They released Andrea early on, but pursued charges against Deadra and William. She was released four months later, and he was found not guilty after spending eight months in jail.

In their civil suit, the siblings alleged police coerced them to confess. Zachary Jones, Jeff Vantlin, and Matthew Wise responded that they were immune from liability.

A trial judge denied their motion to dismiss, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed and sent the case back for trial.

Coerced Confessions

The appeals court took issue with the police interrogators. They told Deadra that she was "going to hang" or spend "25-50 years behind bars" if she did not tell the truth. If she did not talk, they said, her whole family would go to jail for murder.

Jones put the same kind of pressure on William:

"You're lying, you're -- you know, you're lying about something. That's why we keep grilling about it, to get if off your chest, to make you feel better, to help our investigation, you know."

It was like the police interrogations in another Seventh Circuit case, which was based on the story in the Netflix original, "Making a Murderer." In Dassey v. Dittman, Wood called it a "travesty of justice" that the en banc court did not grant a new trial to a young man who said he was coerced into confession.

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