Stop me if you’ve heard this story before…
Cops take a young, oftentimes teenage, Black “suspect” into custody. Cops decide before the interrogation even begins that said “suspect” is guilty despite having no real evidence that indicates guilt. But because the cops have already decided the Black “suspect” is guilty, they proceed accordingly and spend hours lying, pressuring, and browbeating their “suspect” into confessing to a crime said “suspect” didn’t commit. They promise everything will be OK and that the “suspect” can go home as soon as a confession is made. They offer their “suspect” food after starving them. And the “suspect,” who did nothing wrong, is so exhausted, confused, and terrified that they finally confess to something they didn’t do with the desperate hope that it will end the nightmare.
Then the “suspect” is thrown in jail.
According to the Washington Post, 15-year-old Martell Williams said police in Waukegan, Illinois, arrested him at school in front of his peers and took him into custody without telling him what he had done or what crime had even been committed. He said he didn’t find out what he was confessing to until after the cops had coerced the false confession out of him. He also said that after he had been in custody for hours without food, a cop offered him McDonald’s in exchange for his confession.
Martell found out at the end of the interrogation that he had confessed to attempted murder.
According to Martell, his family and his attorney, the actions of the police weren’t the only problems. Martell had no idea why the principal at Waukegan High School had pulled him out of class in the first place and why the two police officers waiting for him in the office were allowed to arrest him immediately without so much as telling him why.
“When they came and got me from school, I was very confused by the situation,” Martell said. “I was scared. I just wanted to go home.”
The police reportedly questioned him for hours without his parents or attorney present, and his attorney, Kevin O’Connor, says the school is also at fault for allowing Martell to be arrested in front of his teachers and peers and taken away before his parents could be reached.
As it turned out, police were investigating a shooting that took place on February 4. It also turned out that, at the time of the shooting, Martell was about 20 miles away from the scene playing in a high school basketball game. His family ended up scouring the internet for video evidence that he was playing in the game, and once they found it, charges of aggravated battery and attempted murder against the teen were dropped.
“If his sister hadn’t found this evidence, he would have been convicted,” O’Connor told the Post.
This, of course, begs the question: How the hell was Martell ever a suspect in the first place?
“Obviously, there’s concern of how this 15-year-old came to a confession and how there was a decision made by police that Mr. Williams was a suspect,” Steve Spagnolo, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office told the Post.
From the Post:
“Williams’s ordeal occurred 12 days after a 19-year-old clerk at a Waukegan Dollar General was shot in the face and survived. Police came to Williams’s high school on Feb. 16 and said people had identified him as being at the store during the incident; Williams said police mentioned an incident but never disclosed that it was a shooting.”
So the police claim people identified Martell as someone who was in the store during the shooting, which he wasn’t, and they decided based on that alone that Martell was, in fact, the shooter. It’s almost as if they just need to “solve” the crime and any negro “suspect” would do.
“They tried to bribe him with McDonald’s and saying, ‘Look, just tell us you were there…and we’ll get you home in 10 minutes,’” O’Connor said. He also said they suggested Martell should “‘Just make it easier on yourself, we know it was self-defense, we know the other guy was the aggressor.’”
O’Connor also noted that Williams did not have an independent juvenile advocate with him so he had “no one to tell him, ‘They have to feed you no matter what.’” He also said offering him fast food after starving him amounts to bribery when minors are involved.
“Even though handing him the McDonald’s doesn’t at first seem to be a bribe, in a kid’s mind, [police] are holding you, and if you don’t answer their questions, they’re not feeding you again,” he said. “’If you don’t tell us what we want to hear, you’re not going to eat again, and by taking the food, you now have to confess’—that’s how Martell interpreted it.”
The Post noted that in January, Illinois became the first state in the country to bar police from lying to minors during interrogations. This is likely why the prosecutor’s office is reviewing the video of Williams’s interrogation to determine if the cops were found to violate the law. Of course, Spagnolotold the Post that if they were found to have violated the law it would be an “administrative disciplinary issue” rather than a criminal offense.
Martell reportedly spent two days in jail behind his coerced confession and given that police tactics like these have ended in innocent people spending years and even decades in prison, it’s indicative of an unjust justice system that cops who engage in them don’t have to fear imprisonment themselves.