A good day for justice today! Court TV has been broadcasting the live trial of Kathleen Hilton for an entire week, and I and a couple of cop friends have been watching it diligently. Why? This case was a text book case about something near and dear to my heart…unfair interrogation tactics of police. You may recall I’ve written extensively about this subject, as I believe that in many cases the interrogations of citizens are greatly abused. The jury’s verdict was not guilty!
First a little background about the case to those of you unfamiliar with the Kathleen Hilton case. On February 24, 1999, someone set a fire to a dwelling that killed five people in Lynn, Massachusetts. Police had an instant suspect in mind, a man by the name of Charles Loayza, who had a girlfriend that resided in the dwelling. (It was reported that they had argued earlier). Anyway, come to find out, Mr. Loayza had a good alibi, so they released him after the interrogation.
But then Mr. Loayza’s mother, Ms. Kathleen Hilton, became a suspect, and was eventually asked to come down to the station to give a statement. After she agreed, she was read her Miranda rights and repeatedly told the detectives that she wasn’t involve. After a brief break from the interrogation process, and noticing that Ms. Hilton was very upset (remember the Reid method?), the detectives suddenly changed their tactics and said to Ms. Hilton, in a soft, encouraging, sympathetic voice, “just tell us what happen”. After repeatedly telling the officer that she wasn’t responsible, and being trick by this tactic, she just told them what they wanted to hear to return home, hence, she was put on trial. Also later, after being escorted to jail by a guard, the guard told police that Ms. Hilton allegedly confessed to the crime.
Today she was found not guilty, and many people were elated! First, it was known that Ms. Hilton was mentally challenged, and the Supreme Court has ruled that Miranda rights are not valid for this type of person. The courts have ruled that a person (mentally challenged) cannot waive their rights when they don’t have the capacity to do that knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. (that’s why she confessed and the tactic worked, mentally challenged). Secondly, she constantly stated she wasn’t involved in the crime! (That should have been the end of it, but no, police had to keep on, instead of continuing to investigate the crime). Which brings me to another point: in many cases, once they “lock” in on you, they somehow get tunnel vision, and don’t investigate other possibilities.
Conclusions and my take:
First, to my regular readers who know what I’m about to say,, excuse me, but many are reading this for the first time.
This story is a text book example about what I’ve been saying about interrogation tactics, and one of the reasons why I said get an attorney. If the police are going to constantly insist that you committed the crime, and you haven’t, why subject yourself to an interrogation? The moment you think you’re a suspect of law enforcement, simply invoke your right to have an attorney present. You can invoke this right for any crime you’re suspected of, and you don’t have to voluntarily go to a station to be interviewed. If you want to keep watching your favorite program on television, you can simply say “officer, I don’t wish to be interviewed or interrogated” and continue on with your television program, you’re not under arrest! If they counter with the old time police trick of, “what do you have to hide”? Simply say, “I simply wish to exercise my constitutional rights”, or simply say nothing. You’re not obligated to explain your rights!
Now, if you want to be interviewed or interrogated, that’s fine with me, but I’m simply admonishing you to know that many people have attempted to assist the police and later find themselves charged with a crime or suspected of a crime! If you’re one of those people who are always eager to help the police catch a criminal, that’s fine also. I don’t have any special love for criminals either! Just be very careful and know that encounters with police officers, especially detectives, can have good or bad consequences! The best I can say is quickly and accurately learn if you’re the subject of the investigation, and if so, shut up!
Now if you’re arrested, simply comply and go to jail, but don’t talk, lest you find yourself in the position of Ms. Hilton! Did I mention she served 10 years in state prison before being released today for a crime she didn’t commit? Be very careful all, very careful!