Monday, January 2, 2012

Inside the Interrogation of a Scared Teen

After a trial court judge suppressed a teenager's confession in her trial for smothering her infant, David Boeri, a reporter for WBUR, a public radio station in Boston, petitioned to get the DVDs or the interrogation. It took several months, but the judge issued an order in September, and in December, WBUR aired a two-part report, "Anatomy of a Bad Confession." Today, NPR aired a lengthy story (though not as lengthy as what WBUR aired). Why did it take so long for the judge to grant the motion? She was sensitive to the risks to the defendant: since the judge determined that the statements were involuntary, the confession wouldn't be admitted at trial and the defendant would not have the opportunity to challenge the statements publicly, and yet WBUR could post the on the web and anyone searching for the young woman's name for the rest of her life would be able to see and hear the confession. It was only after the prosecutor dropped the case that the judge decided that the balance tipped in favor of releasing the recordings. And now people can find online not only the confession but an interview with Nga Truong, reflecting on the interrogation three years later. She does have the opportunity to tell her story. Here are links: Hearing (or viewing) the questioning is much more vivid the reading a discussion of a coercive interrogation in an appellate opinion. This is very valuable reporting.

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