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Defense questions interrogation methods used in confession

Jose M. Garcia

Jose M. Garcia

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Updated: March 8, 2014 6:22AM

A defense attorney hammered away at the interrogation methods used to elicit a confession from Jose Garcia of Mundelein during the third day of testimony in Jose Garcia’s murder trial.

Garcia, 19, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 19-year-old Gabriel Gonzalez of Zion outside a Round Lake Beach convenience store on March 10 of last year.

On Wednesday, the trial jury had viewed the videotaped confession Garcia gave Lake County Major Crime Task Force investigators in March of last year in the Round Lake Beach Police Department.

Thursday morning, defense attorney James Schwarzbach grilled Task Force officer Jason Seeley about the interrogation, which Schwarzbach says resulted in a “false confession” obtained through coercion and threats from officers that Garcia’s family would be at risk for street gang retaliation if he didn’t confess to the shooting.

Officials have said Garcia and another defendant in the case, Jose Rebollar-Vergara, 24, of Round Lake Park, are members of the Latin Kings gang and targeted Gonzalez because they felt the way he was wearing his hat that night was an insult to their gang. Prosecutors have identified Garcia as the shooter in the case.

Schwarzbach, repeating charges he made during unsuccessful pretrial motions to suppress the confession, said officers told Garcia that rumors were flying that the gang would target his family if he didn’t take responsibility for the shooting, and that police told him they would get the word out that he had taken full responsibility if he confessed.

Schwarzbach rattled off quotes used by officers during the interrogation, including references to a previous firebombing case that had occurred in Mundelein and the possibility that a similar fate could await Garcia’s family.

“You were talking about gang retaliation from the Latin Kings, right?” Schwarzbach asked.

“Yes,” Seeley responded.

Under further cross-examination by Schwarzbach, Seeley also acknowledged that investigators said rumors of retaliation were “flying” on Facebook, and that CrimeStoppers had received calls on the issue as well. Seeley responded “not that I was aware of” when asked if those assertions were actually true at the time.

Schwarzbach said Garcia confessed within minutes of those comments being made.

But Assistant State’s Attorney Reginald Mathews noted that Garcia’s confession also came soon after he viewed video footage that shows him in the convenience store at the same time as the victim prior to the shooting.

“Before you showed him this he didn’t confess, did he?” Mathews asked Seeley.

“He did not,” Seeley responded.

“After you showed him this, he confessed to the shooting, didn’t he?” Mathews asked.

“Yes,” Seeley said.

The trial is expected to continue Friday, and due to the number of witnesses and a snow delay on Wednesday, it could run into the weekend or next week, attorneys indicated Thursday.

The trial of Rebollar-Vergara, also charged with first-degree murder in the case, is still pending.

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