Saturday, February 28, 2015

Melissa Calusinski: '48 Hours' looks at her case tonight (Saturday February 28, 2015 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS) and asks - With impartial, medical evidence supporting Melissa Calusinski's innocence, how much weight should be given to her confession? A commentary by '48 Hours' investgator Erin Moriarty;

COMMENTARY:  48 Hours: "How much weight should a confession carry?" by Erin Moriarty, CBS News, published on February 27, 2015. "Erin Moriarty is a "48 Hours" correspondent. She investigates the Melissa Calusinski case Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS."

GIST; How much weight should we give to confessions? We know people confess falsely, sometimes very convincingly, but how do we know which ones to believe? What if the confession doesn't match the evidence? These are questions raised by the disturbing case of Melissa Calusinski. It is possible that this 28-year-old woman could spend the next 25 years in prison, not for what she did, but what she said she did. While she confessed to murdering a child, there is considerable new evidence to support her innocence. What and whom to believe?.........In the end, it was the state's arguments and Melissa's taped confession that convinced the jury: they convicted Melissa Calusinski of murder. She was sentenced to 31 years in prison. That would be the end of it if not for Melissa's father, Paul Calusinski. Believing in his daughter's innocence, he convinced a newly-elected county coroner, Thomas Rudd, to re-examine the evidence. As Rudd later related, "I could not believe what I was seeing, because it was the exact opposite of what was written. So, I had my head spinning." What took Rudd by surprise was the discovery of clear evidence of an earlier injury in the child's brain. That injury, according to Rudd, occurred weeks or even months before the child died, possibly before Melissa Calusinski worked at the day care center. It was crucial evidence that was somehow missed by the pathologist who did the autopsy. Rudd now believes that it was the earlier injury that set into motion the events that led to Ben Kingan's death. When Rudd confronted the pathologist, Dr. Eupil Choi, with his findings, Choi admitted he made a mistake and even signed an affidavit to that effect. Later, at the request of the State's attorney, Choi sent a letter saying that his error would not have changed his testimony at Melissa's trial. Still, you might think that this error on the part of the state's star witness would cause the Lake County State's Attorney, Michael Nerheim, to take another look at the conviction. So far that hasn't happened, in large part because of Melissa's confessions. Did she truly confess? Her attorney Kathleen Zellner says no. According to Zellner, Melissa Calusinski's confession, that followed nine hours of a relentless interrogation, doesn't match the evidence. If she did, in fact, throw the child in anger on the floor, why is there no injury or bruising on the toddler's scalp or body? When first prodded by police, Melissa takes a doll and throws it down face first. Ben Kingan's injuries are all on the back of his skull. There is another factor that should be considered: Melissa's ability to understand what was happening in the interrogation room. Her records indicate a very low verbal IQ of 74 which means she has difficulty expressing herself and understanding others. Did that play a part in her confession? Finally, there is this: according to the Innocence Project of New York , more than 60 percent of those exonerated by DNA tests in homicide cases first confessed -- falsely. With impartial, medical evidence supporting Melissa Calusinski's innocence, how much weight should be given to her confession? It's a troubling case.

The entire commentary can be found at:

Link to '48 Hours' site: (CBS): "A young woman is serving a 31-year murder sentence for a crime she says she didn’t commit. If that’s the case, why did she confess? "48 Hours"' Erin Moriarty investigates."


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