El Dorado News-Times

Police should stop treating children like adults


Years ago, Joel Wieneke was appointed defense counsel to a boy who confessed to vandalizin­g a neighbor’s home. Wieneke can’t recall the boy’s name, but he remembers the sobbing after the boy said he didn’t do it.

A police officer investigat­ing the case had told the boy the department had tested blue paint found in a can at his house, and the “DNA” from the paint matched that thrown on the vandalized home.

“I don’t know if the officer actually found a can of paint at the kid’s home, but I know all of the rest of that story was a lie – paint doesn’t have DNA, and it would be highly unlikely for police to invest in some sort of chemical testing to investigat­e a vandalism case,” Wieneke, now the senior staff attorney with the Indiana Public Defender Council, told The Journal Gazette.

Police are allowed to lie during interviews to induce confession­s, as every true-crime enthusiast knows. But kids are especially easy targets of such deception, and an Indiana Senate bill seeks to protect Hoosier youth from the practice.

Authored by Sen. Rodney Pol, D-Chesterton, Senate Bill 415 provides that any statement made by a juvenile younger than 18 during police interviews would be inadmissib­le in court if it was acquired through a known false assertion.

“It just makes the statements that are garnered from deception tactics inadmissib­le against the juvenile in court,” Pol told The Journal Gazette Wednesday. “But it doesn’t stop (police) from a situation in which maybe they are looking for somebody or they believe somebody’s injured, and they want to find that individual that they think the juvenile has informatio­n on.

“They can still use the deceptive tactics in that,” he said. “This is purely just to stop those tactics from being used against the juvenile in court later on, and in a juvenile delinquenc­y hearing.”

According to the Innocence Project, young people are especially vulnerable to falsely confessing under the pressure

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