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Judge allows Calusinski confession, bars expert witness

MelissCalusinski arrested murder BenjamKingan 16 months. Calusinski  threw Kingan ground while overseeing his care daycare center Lincolnshire.

Melissa Calusinski arrested in the murder of Benjamin Kingan, 16 months. Calusinski threw Kingan to the ground while overseeing his care at a daycare center in Lincolnshire.

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Updated: July 12, 2013 1:55PM

The Carpentersville woman charged with first-degree murder told police in a recorded interview she threw the 16-month-old toddler to the floor the day he died.

Defense attorneys representing Melissa Calusinski, 24, have challenged the volunteered statement and had moved to suppress statements she made to police during the interview, which was two days after Deerfield toddler Benjamin Kingan died at a Lincolnshire day-care center in January 2009.

Defense attorneys Paul DeLuca and Daniel Cummings also sought to introduce testimony from an interrogation and false confession expert to present at Calusinski’s upcoming trial.

Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes ruled Friday to allow Calusinski’s statements to police in at the upcoming trial and barred the expert witness from testifying at the trial.

“(Her statements) are a question of weight, not admissibility,” Shanes said.

It will be up to a jury to decide the credibility of what she told police if the 10-hour interview is played for the jury, he said.

Shanes also said that the testimony of expert Richard Leo is not necessary or relevant. Leo was going to testify about interrogation techniques, how they increase the risk of false confessions and what false confessions are. Leo was not going to voice an opinion whether or not he thought Calusinski’s confession was false, her attorneys had said.

“There will be other evidence in this case, including the video exchange,” Shanes said.

DeLuca argued that Leo’s testimony was relevant.

“This is at the core of our defense. This case has no eyewitness. This case is about a confession only,” DeLuca said. “Our fundamental defense is this is a false confession.”

Prosecutor Christen Bishop argued against allowing Leo to testify at the trial, stating Leo uses secondary sources to justify his data.

“Jurors in this case can see the conversation between the defendant and officers, and assess it for themselves,” Bishop said.

The only relevant information Leo would testify to would have been the two factors Calusinski’s interview had that were co-related to false confessions — the interview’s length and the officers’ minimization of potential punishment, Bishop said.

The issue of when Calusinski was arrested was also under question. She was not handcuffed or put in the backseat of a squad car, and the detectives she spoke with on Jan. 16, 2009 were in plain clothes, Shanes said.

Shanes said he found her to be in custody about four hours into the interview when she said she wanted to go home, but was not allowed to.

Calusinski is in custody at Lake County Jail. She is due back in court Sept. 20.

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