Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Inmate Statements

During the early years of Michael's incarceration, he was approached by at least three different inmates who claimed to know of his innocence. In each case, their alleged knowledge was based on interactions with Michael's co-defendant. I have the handwritten statements of all three. One is too faint to scan. Two others are reproduced here.

The first is the statement of an inmate who had, at one time, been a cellmate of Michael Ustaszewski's co-defendant, Michael Morris.

The second, the two pages below, is the statement of an inmate who attended group counseling sessions with Morris.

Below is Michael's typed transcription of the above statement.

You might note, in the above statement, that the co-defendant, Michael Morris is alleged to have said, "The next time they showed me a page of paper, they say the white boy signed a statement that he saw me Stab the old Man - So I decided then I was taking him to Jail with me." Nowhere in the record - not in the police file, not in the trial transcripts - is there any indication that Michael Ustaszewski made such a statement.

I recently corresponded with Michael Ustaszewski about the issue of who brought up whose name when. This is what he had to say: "When the detectives came to the YMCA to interview me, they had asked me did I notice anyone not here at the Y that usually would be here. I sat and thought about it for a moment, and the only person that came to my mind was Morris. I had come up on some pot over the weekend and I was looking for him to cop some joints from me, but I hadn't seen him around for a few days, and that's when I said that I hadn't seen Morris around."

I suspect that the police genuinely thought that both men were involved in the crime, but they didn't know who, if not both of them, might actually have killed Cordle. Morris, arrested first, confessed to being at the scene, but pinned the actual murder on Ustaszewski. Ustaszewski, arrested the following day, has denied involvement in any aspect of the crime from the time of his arrest.

I have learned that the police have very broad discretion with regard to the use of lies and false evidence to try to get suspects to confess. The record here suggests that this is what was going on in this instance. I can only conclude that the police used the "He said, he said" game to try to get someone to spill it. Morris thought that it was better to admit being there, but pin the murder on someone else. Ustaszewski didn't play along.

Morris's "confession," however, was not going to be enough for a conviction. Thus, the jailhouse informant. More on that in a separate post.

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