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Murder confession after racially charged interrogation heads to Supreme Court

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Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court agreed to review whether the confession of a man charged with murder can be used against him because it was gained during a racially charged interrogation.

The murder confession case involves a nonpublished, divided Court of Appeals ruling on interlocutory appeal in which the appellate panel affirmed Lake Superior Judge Diane Ross Boswell’s denial of a motion to suppress the confession of McLynnerd Bond for the 2007 murder of Kadmiel Mahone.

At the center of the case is Gary Detective Edward Gonzalez’s interrogation of Bond, who is African-American. About two hours in, Gonzalez sought to convince Bond he couldn’t receive a fair trial at the courthouse in Crown Point, implying there would be no African-American jurors.

According to the record, Gonzalez told Bond, “Don’t let twelve people who are from Schererville, Crown Point, white people, Hispanic people, other people that aren’t from Gary, from your part of the hood, judge you. Because they’re not gonna put people on there who are from your neck of the woods.”

About an hour later, Bond confessed to killing Mahone. In McLynnerd Bond, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 45S03-1309-CR-597, the appeals court majority of Chief Judge Margret Robb and Judge Ezra Friedlander uncomfortably concluded that Bond’s confession in the cold case had been voluntary. “Like the trial court, we do not approve of the comment made by Detective Gonzales. However, this does not necessarily render the confession involuntary,” Robb wrote.

Judge James Kirsch briefly but strongly dissented, noting the detective also used an obscene name and screamed at Bond during interrogation, dismissing the trial court’s comment that the detective’s behavior caused it “great concern” and is “strongly discouraged.”  

“Yet, each time courts allow such conduct, they implicitly sanction it and encourage the next police officer in the next interrogation to go a bit further, to be more offensive, more racist and more deceptive,” Kirsch wrote.

“I would go beyond expressing ‘concern,’ ‘discouraging,’ ‘not approving’ and ‘condoning,’ and I would expressly condemn the police conduct that occurred here. Accordingly, I would reverse the trial court’s decision to deny the motion to suppress and remand for further proceedings.”

Separately, justices also granted transfer during the week ending Sept. 13 to a case considering whether an appeals court rightly threw out a trial court adjudication of a 14-year-old Indianapolis boy for what would be criminal gang activity if committed by an adult.

In G.H. v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1309-JV-595, the Court of Appeals held the evidence against the juvenile defendant was insufficient to support the trial court’s finding against him.

An appeals panel reversed the Marion Superior finding, ruling that a “guilt-by association argument is circular and unpersuasive.”

The case involves two other juveniles with whom G.H. “hung out,” and a question of whether the state met its burden of proving the elements of the charge: that the child (1) was an active member of a criminal gang, (2) had knowledge of the group’s criminal advocacy, and (3) had a specific intent to further the group’s criminal goals.

Justices denied transfer in 23 cases for the week ending Sept. 13. Transfer dispositions may be viewed here. 

 

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