On his second and final appeal, New York Courts finally ruled that Adrian Thomas had not voluntarily confessed when he agreed to confess to killing his child in order to avoid the arrest of his wife.
But that's just the beginning of what was wrong with the case. . .
The court says:
Defendant was convicted by a jury of murdering his four-month-old son, Matthew Thomas. The evidence considered by the jury included a statement in which he admitted that on three occasions during the week preceding the infant's death he "slammed" Matthew down on a mattress just 17 inches above the floor and a videotape of defendant's interrogation, near the end of which defendant, a particularly large individual (c. 300 lbs), demonstrated how he raised the infant above his head and threw him down with great force on the low lying mattress.The truth is that doctors killed the child by missing the cause of his death, and pointed the finger at the father:
What is perhaps most remarkable about this case is the way it began. When police went to the hospital to look into the death of [Adrian] Thomas’ son, they were met by Dr. Walter Edge, who not only told them that the infant had died of a fractured skull but added, in no uncertain terms, “somebody murdered this child.”How did police get an innocent man to act out a murder confession? It took 17 hours of interrogation and the following lies (again, quoting from the court opinion):
Roused to action by this declaration, detectives looked around for likely suspects, saw one in the infant’s very large father, and turned the situation into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Armed with the zeal of the righteous, they believed nothing would do unless Thomas could be made to confess in exactly the way they thought he should. Which is what eventually happened.
At the risk of ruining the suspense, I note that Thomas’s son Matthew did not in fact have a fractured skull—nor did he show any bruising, grip marks, or other external signs of either shaking or impact—and laboratory tests later revealed a serious systemic infection, missed by not only the treating doctors but also the pathologist who performed the autopsy.
This record, however, is replete with false assurances. Defendant was told 67 times that what had been done to his son was an accident, 14 times that he would not be arrested, and 8 times that he would be going home. These representations were, moreover, undeniably instrumental in the extraction of defendant's most damaging admissions. When Sergeant Mason suggested that defendant had thrown Matthew down on the bed, defendant protested repeatedly that he was being asked to admit that he had intentionally harmed his son. To each such protest, Mason responded that what defendant had done was not intentional, often adding an elaborate explanation of why that was so. In this way, and after a final appeal from Mason to provide the "proper information to relate to the hospital and talk to the doctors to keep your son alive," defendant at last agreed that he argued with Ms. Hicks and then threw Matthew down on the bed.And:
Defendant initially agreed to take responsibility for his son's injuries to save his wife from arrest. His subsequent confession provided no independent confirmation that he had in fact caused the child's fatal injuries. Every scenario of trauma induced head injury equal to explaining the infant's symptoms was suggested to defendant by his interrogators. Indeed, there is not a single inculpatory fact in defendant's confession that was not suggested to him. He did not know what to say to save his wife and child from the harm he was led to believe his silence would cause. It was at Mason's request and pursuant to his instructions, that defendant finally purported to demonstrate how he threw the child. And after Mason said that he must have thrown the child still harder and after being exhorted not to "sugar-coat" it, he did as he was bid. Shortly after this closely directed enactment, defendant was arrested.So now you know how an innocent man has been in custody since 2008.