Judge Axes Confession, Pretrial, Under New IL Law
In a ruling hailed by defense advocates as proof that an unusual new law is working, an Illinois judge has made a pretrial ruling that a woman’s videotaped murder confession can’t be used against her because police ignored her requests for a lawyer.
Judge John Scotillo, who sits in Cook County, made the ruling Monday in the case of Diana Thames, 49, a downstate resident who is charged with murdering a friend and business associate at the victim’s suburban Chicago home, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Police videotaped Thames’ confession, as required under a state law that took effect July 1, 2005 and applies to murder cases. It was enacted in response to repeated wrongful convictions, some in death penalty cases. Viewing the video, it was clear that officers had ignored Thames’ requests for a lawyer—a “mind-boggling” violation of a fundamental rule, says Steve Drizin, legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law.
Police and prosecutors declined to comment, but Kathleen Zellner, the defendant’s lawyer, said the ruling is unique.
“Usually you don’t see this happen at the trial level. It usually happens on appeal,” she says. “It was one of the first fully videotaped confessions under the new law, and it’s a good lesson for police departments.”