As I was reading the Chicago Tribune today, I saw an article that touched upon two of my recent blog posts — the one about Melissa Calusinksi, and the one where I linked to Professor James Duane’s lecture about why you should never speak to the police.
Professor Duane used the following example (slightly altered by me): Lets say the police are “investigating” the murder of John Doe in Highwood last Sunday and want to talk to you.
You agree, since you have nothing to hide.
You say, “I hated that guy, but I didn’t do it.” Now, the police will say you admitted hating the victim. You have a motive.
You add, “I was in Highwood, but I didn’t do it.” Now, the police will say that you had the opportunity and the motive to commit the crime.
Or lets say, you say “I was in Sauk Village at the time, I wasn’t anywhere near there.” But you don’t have any definitive proof besides your mom’s word for it. Now, lets say the police find a witness who (mistakenly) confirms that you were in Highwood that night. Now, your statement can be used to show that you made a false statement (even though it was true!).
And so on.
Now, read Calusinski’s account to the Tribune:
In Calusinski’s case, she had been interrogated for more than six hours before offering the first hint of culpability in the boy’s death. Earlier in the questioning, she had suggested Benjamin might have injured himself because of his propensity to throw himself onto the ground during tantrums. Later, she offered that he might have hit his head on a chair when he accidentally slipped from her arms.
Over those hours, Calusinski’s interrogators — Round Lake Park police Chief George Filenko and Highland Park police Detective Sean Curran — tried different tactics to elicit her confession, ranging from telling her that they were sure the boy’s death was accidental, to telling her they were sure it was intentional.
Eventually, she agreed with a “yeah,” after Curran suggested she had intentionally thrown Benjamin to the floor. Later, she recounted that version of events back to the investigators and used a doll to demonstrate how she mishandled the boy.
During her jailhouse interview this week, though, Calusinski said that she finally confessed because she was “very scared.” She also said she was grief-stricken over Benjamin’s death and was lacking sleep and food.
“I wanted to get out of there. … I was so isolated,” said Calusinski, who added she’s never been in trouble before besides a parking ticket. “I thought, ‘I’ll tell them what they wanted to hear so we can all go home.’ I didn’t think about jail. They made it clear I was going home.”
After the confession, when she was told she was being charged, Calusinski said she immediately protested and claimed her innocence.
“I was like, ‘You guys are making a huge mistake, I did nothing to him,'” she said. “They ignored me.”
Calusinski said she’s always been obedient and did what she was told. She said that might have led her to agree with police when they told her she was involved in Benjamin’s death.
She also admits that learning was never easy for her and she was often the brunt of teasing and bullying because of it.
If you have seen all of Professor Duane’s presentation, and Detective Bruch’s “rebuttal,” you will recognize these methods.
Remember, that Melissa was 22 years old, and had an IQ of 74. The Tribune describes her as petite. This is in addition to the new information that she has had a history of being bullied.
Six hours of interrogation don’t get the police to stop. So, Melissa tries to “help” them by providing explanations for Benjamin’s death — he had tantrums where he hit his head; he hit his head on a chair. To the police, these “explanations” are just admissions that Melissa had some involvement in Benjamin’s death.
The police try to get her to agree that she caused the death, but it was accidental. This will get her to admit being at fault.
They also tell her that they know that she intentionally murdered Benjamin.
They finally get her to agree to their theory that she intentionally threw Benjamin. She now says that she only agreed because she felt that if she agreed, she would get to go home. She says that as soon as she was informed that she was being charged with murder, she recanted. Too late.
As I said in my post last week, outside of the confession and the dead toddler, there doesn’t seem to be hardly an evidence to show that Benjamin was intentionally killed. Outside of the confession, it would appear that he either died as the result of a momentary, stress induced horrible act by Melissa (which would amount to manslaughter, not first degree murder) or he died as the result of injuries caused by something else entirely (such as banging his head too hard on the floor).
What I do know, however, is that Professor Duane had it correct: Don’t talk to the police, even if you are 100% innocent.