Coerced false confessions are the second leading cause of false convictions, and in this Monday’s FDL Monday Night, Scenes of a Crime, filmmakers Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock present a clear, concise, and compelling look at how police use the Reid Method of interrogation. You’ll recognize it if you’ve ever watched more than one episode of Law and Order: Pretending to sympathize with the suspect, creating the least-bad possible scenario for how the crime occurred, and lying in order to get Adrian Thomas to confess to the beating death of his four-month old son. After 10 hours of interrogation (plus a 16-hour  stay in a mental ward) without a lawyer present, which included a detective telling Thomas


I’m not going to arrest you … I don’t want to arrest you

and that if Thomas, a giant of a man, just shows them how he threw his baby on the bed, he can then go see wife and dying son in the hospital, Thomas demonstrates how he slammed his four-month old down on the bed three times. By this time, Thomas’ son is already dead. Based on his confession written up by police, the Albany County District Attorney is fired up to prosecute.

The problem within the state’s case: the evidence, aside from the  on-the-run statement of a rushed,  overworked ER doctor (who declined to be interviewed for Scenes of a Crime) and some highly inconclusive CT scans, clearly shows that septic pneumonia was the cause of the baby’s death.

(During  his videotaped interrogation, when the police say that only one of two adults is the house could have caused the baby’s injuries, Thomas states that he’s only admitting to the crime to protect his wife from being a suspect and going to jail. But there were no injuries as an autopsy later proves.)

During the trial, Thomas not allowed to testify, and Child Protective Services manipulate his wife into not speaking up in his defense. An expert in coerced confessions is kept off the stand because the trial judge, up for re-election and new to murder trials, doesn’t feel the jury needs expert instruction. Despite the testimony of expert defense witnesses who use hard science to show that sepsis caused the baby’s death, Thomas is convicted, though one juror admits there’s

always just a little bit of doubt

and that she is not 100% convinced of Thomas’ guilt. But gosh, the trial took up a month of her life, a month she couldn’t be on the golf course.

Adrian Thomas is currently serving a 25-to-life sentence. In October, 2012 the  New York Court of Appeals announced they will hear Thomas’s appeal this year, though the date has not yet been scheduled.

Scenes of a Crime, which premiered on MSNBC, is available for home viewing thru iTunes and  Distrify.com

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FDL Movie Night starts at 5pm West Coast time on the front page of Firedoglake.com. To comment and participate in the live, on-line discussion with Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock, you must be registered and log in. Registration is easy (and free!); simply click the registration button at the top of the page, or any page on Firedoglake.com, and a fill out the form. Your password will be emailed to you, then just log in and you’re good to go.  See you Monday at 5pm.