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May 14, 2014

Court throws out black man's murder confession

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court has thrown out a black man's murder confession, ruling Tuesday that a police detective went too far by telling the man his race might prevent him from getting a fair trial.

The Gary detective's fair-trial comment likely contributed to McLynnerd Bond Jr.'s confession to the 2007 killing of a 28-year-old Kadmiel Mahone, who was shot in the head and neck in a Gary apartment.

But the justices said in Tuesday's unanimous ruling that the detective violated Bond's right to equal access to justice by "intentionally misleading a suspect as to his constitutionally guaranteed rights to a fair trial and an impartial jury" because of his race.

That detective had interrogated Bond for about three hours, during which Bond had steadfastly denied his role in Mahone's murder. But then the officer changed tactics and pointed to the possible makeup of the jury that might hear the case.

The officer told Bond that if he went to trial there'd be no one "from your part of the hood" on the jury, just 12 white or Hispanic people "from Schererville or Crown Point" — both suburban Lake County communities.

"They're not gonna put people on there who are from your neck of the woods. You know that. They're not gonna be the ones to decide what happens to you. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that," court documents quote the officer as saying.

Bond's attorney first asked a Lake County judge to suppress the confession, but the judge denied that request. That decision was appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court ruling, The Indianapolis Star reported.

The Supreme Court's ruling said the detective's comments were "an intentional misrepresentation of rights ensconced in the very fabric of our nation's justice system — the rights to a fair trial and an impartial jury, and the right not to be judged by or for the color of your skin ...."

The court added that the detective's comments were "carried out as leverage to convince a suspect in a criminal case that his only recourse was to forego his claim of innocence and confess."

Bond's trial was placed on hold during the appeals and it's unclear whether the trial will proceed now that the state Supreme Court has thrown out his confession.

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