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CA City Pays $900K For Falsely Accusing Man Of Killing Father

Over 17 hours of police interrogation, Fontana, Calif., detectives falsely claimed Thomas Perez Jr.’s father was dead, suggested his dog would be euthanized when Perez went to prison for killing him, denied him anxiety and blood pressure medications, and extracted a confession for a murder that never happened. The 2018 interrogation led to a legal battle that appeared headed for trial before the city agreed to settle Perez’s federal lawsuit for nearly $900,000, reports the Washington Post. “Mentally torturing a false confession out of Tom Perez, concealing from him that his father was alive and well, and confining him in the psych ward because they made him suicidal, in my 40 years of suing the police I have never seen that level of deliberate cruelty by the police,” Jerry Steering, an attorney for Perez, told the Orange County Register. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said the evidence could lead a reasonable juror to conclude the police interrogation amounted to “unconstitutional psychological torture.”

Courts have given police broad protections for the tactics during interrogations, It usually is legal for police to lie to adult suspects during questioning. Coerced admissions of guilt have played a role in more than 300 exonerations in murder cases since 1989, says the National Registry of Exonerations. For Perez, what began as a call to police after his father, who had signs of dementia, went missing led to a marathon interrogation that caused his mental health to unravel to the point where he attempted suicide. Detectives interpreted Perez’s behavior as suspicious and thought the home’s disarray indicated a struggle. They brought Perez to the police station the next day and accused him of killing his father. At one point, a detective falsely told Perez that his father had been found dead and that his body was at the morgue. Perez eventually relented and falsely confessed to murdering his father. He attempted to kill himself, was arrested and taken to a mental hospital. Later, Perez’s sister called police to say her father had walked from his home to a train station and then took public transit to visit a friend.


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