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Calusinski attorneys want interrogation expert to testify


Melissa Calusinski

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Updated: September 8, 2011 2:26AM

Defense attorneys for the Carpentersville woman accused of murdering a 16-month-old toddler were in Lake County court Wednesday presenting the opinion of an expert in false confessions and interrogation.

Melissa Calusinski, 24, is charged with first-degree murder, accused of throwing the 16-month-old Deerfield tot to the floor at a Lincolnshire day-care center in January 2009.

She confessed to throwing Benjamin Kingan to the ground when she was employed as a teacher’s aide at the Minee Subee day-care center during a recorded interrogation with police that was previously played in court.

Her attorneys Paul DeLuca and Daniel Cummings have previously filed motions trying to quash her arrest and suppress statements she made during that interview, which lasted about 10 hours.

The recorded interview, police and medical reports, and preliminary hearing transcripts were provided to interrogation and false confession expert Richard Leo, who is a professor of law at the University of San Francisco.

Leo was the expert who testified at Wednesday’s hearing.

“I want him to discuss with the jury various investigation techniques and how they increase the risk of false confessions and what false confessions are,” DeLuca said.

DeLuca said he would not ask Leo to share an opinion about whether he thought Calusinski’s confession was false or not.

Leo testified that he thought ”certain techniques” used during Calusinski’s interrogation were techniques associated with false confessions.

He also said officers suggested a lenient punishment if it was an accident and there “implicit suggestions” of a harsher punishment if Calusinski was withholding information.

Interrogations lasting longer than four hours and the punishment techniques are associated with false confessions, he testified.

There are about 300 proven false confessions in the U.S., Leo testified. He also said he could not prove a confession false nor could he produce exact totals of false confessions.

Leo also testified that he charged $350 an hour and that he had agreed to a $7,000 retainer fee with the defense.

Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes is expected to rule Friday whether or not Leo will be allowed to testify at Calusinski’s upcoming trial. Shanes is also expected to rule on defense motions to quash her arrest and suppress statements.

Calusinski remains in custody at Lake County Jail.

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