Prosecutor Asks Supreme Court to Block Suit by Wrongfully Convicted Youth

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An Ohio prosecutor is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block a civil lawsuit against her for the role she played in the conviction of a 12-year-old boy that was later overturned.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January (PDF) that prosecutor Amanda Spies of Tuscarawas County, Ohio, could be sued for damages in connection with allegations the boy was prosecuted based on a faulty confession. The ruling also noted Spies’ insistence to a military recruiter that the youth was guilty years after she lost the case, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The youth, 12-year-old Anthony Harris of New Philadelphia, Ohio, had confessed to the murder of a neighbor, a 5-year-old girl, after police picked him up for questioning in July 1998. He recanted when his mother arrived. An Ohio appeals court later threw out the confession and the conviction it yielded. The court ruled the confession was full of inaccuracies and the correct information it contained had been fed to Harris by an investigator.

Northwestern law professor Steve Drizin told the Tribune the 6th Circuit ruling permitting the lawsuit was “a stunning turnabout.”

“In many jurisdictions where prosecutors play a role in advising officers, prosecutors may now have to review confessions and interrogation tapes to determine if the resulting confessions are involuntary … and inherently untrustworthy,” he said. “If this opinion requires a greater level of pretrial screening, it could reduce wrongful arrests and wrongful convictions.”

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