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Monday, November 24, 2008

Boy's constitutional rights forgotten during interview

The video of the now-infamous 8-year-old in St. Johns is chilling.

"Did you shoot your dad?" a sheriff's deputy asks the pajama-clad boy, at the end of an hourlong interview in which he was led ever-so-gently down the primrose path.

The boy rubs his eyes and he covers his face. "I think so," he says softly.

I want to thank the prosecutors in Apache County for releasing the tape of the child's supposed confession to the world this week. I, for one, learned a few things about the criminal-justice system in Arizona.

I learned that it's a place where little children don't have any constitutional rights. How else could police keep at the kid for over an hour, while his mother was told to wait outside, and never offer the boy any adult help?

I learned that it's a place where it is apparently OK to apply the same interrogation techniques to a third-grader that you would to a 30-year-old.

A place where you may get a confession.

But will you get the truth?

At the time of that interview, the boy was accused of killing his father and a second adult male living in the house.  [Mark Godsey]

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The police, the prosecutor, and the judge should be charged with child abuse. The FBI should be called in to take over and investigate this felony violation of civil rights under color of law. This is beyond an outrage and flies far beyond the twilight zone. The child should be immediately released to his mother.

A five year old believes a body is a bag of skin containing blood. A six to seven year old has no concept of death. They are just starting to understand this means the person is not coming back home. They think the person is sleeping.

All of us know that five year olds have no concept of time - “is it time yet!” An eight year old thinks a body is a bag of skin with bones randomly placed in it.

Children this age are good mimics and repeat what they hear adults say and what is said on TV but they don’t know what they are saying or what the words really mean. They mimic TV and the line between fantasy (what they see on TV) and reality is blurry for them. That’s why they believe so much in boogey men under the bed and in closets.

My son was five and I was called by a baby sitter in panic when she told me that he “knew everything about sex” so some one must be abusing him or telling him everything. The sitter often watched soap operas during the day and they show couples in bed in their bedrooms under the blankets with lights out. The word “sex” is used but not explained. I later found out the sitter would tell the kids to go away from the TV and play in a stern voice whenever bedroom scenes came on. She told the kids they shouldn’t watch because there was “sex.” The subconscious message was bedroom scenes were “bad.”

At dinner I had a casual playful conversation with my son and worked in the word “sex” by saying - “someone told me the word sex today - it sounds bad”. My son said that the sitter didn’t want him to say the word because it was “bad”. I asked him what it meant. He said: “Its when you shut off the lights and tickle each other under the covers.” Then he had a big giggle and ate his pie.

To get even with the sitter for scolding him about being naughty my son used what he knew would press her button. Even a two year old learns to manipulate before he understands what he is doing! He told her: “I know what you do with uncle Joe under the covers.” Uncle Joe and Aunt Carol let my son sleep over to play with their dog, when I am out of town or there is a special event like a baseball game my brother and son like to watch together (my son lost his father so interactions with my brother were important). Aunt Carol, the sitter, thought this meant adult sex and had a cow. My son only knew that Auntie thought the activities under the cover were “bad”. He didn’t know what those activities were - so he imagined them - tickles.

I think this is a case similar to the Ryan Harris murder in Chicago where two little boys were charged after false confessions and an atrocious interview and later exonerated when the DNA matched an adult.

I am a pediatrician and the interview was atrocious. If you want to put words in a child’s mouth and manipulate them into confessing to something they didn’t do, all the techniques are illustrated on this video - be nice start out with facts and then move to theoreticals and abstract concepts which you lead on - imply what you want - voila! - you get a confession! Children LOVE to please.

The biggest mistake is that children DO NOT understand the abstract at this age (death, murder, life, love, suffering). Abstract is beyond their grasp. Consequences are beyond their grasp unless they are short term. Premeditation for more than a short time is beyond their grasp and cannot involve the abstract.

The child was learning hunting from his father. Perhaps his father taught him to be humane and put a wounded animal out of its misery because it was “suffering”. The child then was taught to equate “suffering” with the sight of blood. The child could have been equating blood with being wounded and talking about putting the men out of their misery by shooting them, even if the child did not shoot them. Was he talking in the concrete or the abstract; past, present, or future? You can’t take what he said literally!

Words at this age may not connect with actions. They may be used as if in reality but in actuality the child is discribing fantasy, or mixing up past actions with present (shooting a wounded squirral v seeing his dad covered with blood). They don’t communicate precisely. Actions don’t connect with results very well. They are just learning these concepts.

Children are NOT little adults! Shame on everyone who thinks that this interview has ANY inculpatory evidence whatsoever. The child should not be in juvenile jail. He should be home with his mommy.

For the press to perpetuate this myth that the boy shot or murdered his father and the border is obscene. How in tarnations could an eight-year old surprise and overpower two adults in different parts of the house who are familiar with guns, aim perfectly, and kill them? Are you all nuts! The murderer is by now long gone! It is NOT alright to use a defenseless, naive, sweet eight-year old as a scape goat and headliner! You are all barbaric and then defame his deceased father with baseless allegations of child abuse!

The press should be ashamed. Perhaps they should study Edward R. Murrow and learn about ethics.

See also: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-juveniles21-2008nov21,0,5205156.story

In this case Mr. Doody was a 17 year old in AZ when he was accused of murdering 9 people at a Buddhist temple. The only evidence was his “confession” extracted after he was “de-Mirandized” per the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals due to inappropriate 12 hours of intense interrogation without counsel or family. His conviction was overturned and he was granted a new trial. Sound familiar?

Posted by: Dr Linda Shelton | Jan 6, 2009 5:17:36 AM

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