Comments to police allowed in abandoned-baby trial

Statements made to a Jacksonville police detective by a teenage girl in the wake of her arrest in connection to a newborn baby found in a trash Dumpster in August can be used as evidence in her attempted murder trial. The girl’s legal counsel, public defender Anne Clough, argued during a motion hearing more than two weeks ago that the girl made involuntary and self-incriminating statements during an interview with detective Scott Erthal and that the girl’s rights and the wishes of the girl’s mother were not respected by Erthal and a second detective, Brad Rogers, who acted as juvenile officer for the girl during the interview. Clough argued that Rogers could not properly protect the girl’s rights because Rogers was involved in the investigation. Clough also argued that Erthal and Rogers did not respect the wishes of the girl’s mother to be present while Erthal interviewed the girl and that the mother’s desire to be present was a condition of the mother granting her permission for police to conduct the interview. Associate Judge Jeffery Tobin said in his decision that he found Erthal’s testimony to be more credible than that of the mother and grandmother. The grandmother’s testimony about when and where the mother informed Erthal of her wishes to be present during the interview did not match the mother’s testimony. During the motion hearing, Erthal testified he telephoned the girl’s mother Sept. 6 and told her that he was going to interview the girl that same day, but the girl’s mother expressed no desire to accompany him. Rogers testified that a call was made to the girl’s mother, but because he could only hear Erthal’s side of the conversation, Rogers did not know what, if anything, had been said by the girl’s mother in regards to being present during the interview. The girl’s mother testified that she gave her permission over the phone to Erthal to interview the girl, but only if she was present during the interview. The girl’s grandmother told the court that she heard the girl’s mother tell Erthal in person at the grandmother’s home that she, the mother, wanted to be present when Erthal conducted the interview with the girl. Tobin also said in his decision that he found the statements by the girl during the interview to have been made freely and voluntarily. The interview, which was not recorded, was conducted at the Madison County Juvenile Detention Center in Edwardsville, where the girl was kept in custody for five days following her arrest. Erthal and Rogers both said that the interview was not recorded because they did not have the necessary equipment on hand nor did the facility have recording equipment available. Interviews with juveniles are required to be recorded only in the case of a homicide. The girl will be in court next for a pre-trial conference on Aug. 6. Bre Linstromberg Copper can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1220, or on Twitter @JCNews_bre.

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