Exoneration Project clinic students Michaela Kabat and Regina Wood with Attorney & Lecturer David Owens.
[UPDATED STORY: On May 16, 2017, prosecutors declined to retry Patrick Prince and formally dismissed the charges against him. He will be freed after 26 years of wrongful conviction. He is 46 years old. Patrick is the 25th Exoneration Project to be exonerated since our inception in 2007. You can read the press release here.]
On April 26, 2017, Exoneration Project client Patrick Prince won a new trial based on a preponderance of new evidence of innocence. In his order, the Judge states:
This is a case that arose during the times, thinking, sentiments, customs and practices of the 1990s. Petitioner was just 19 years old. There were no eyewitnesses to the actual shooting that testified at trial. No physical evidence connected Petitioner to the crime. No forensic evidence connects Petitioner to the crime. The only evidence against the Petitioner was his confession. Allegations and findings of past misconduct by police during questioning of suspects are now at an unprecedented high and we now better understand the psychology of false confessions. To ensure substantial justice be done, Defendant should be granted a new trial…[Full Order]
Patrick Prince was convicted of a 1991 homicide based on a confession coerced by Detective Kriston Kato. The confession was the only evidence offered at trial implicating Prince, who has consistently maintained his innocence for twenty-six years. Since Patrick’s trial, over 30 people have claimed that Kato beat or coerced them in his efforts to obtain confessions. Many of these individuals were either never charged, acquitted, or had their convictions overturned in the Courts.
Even though no eyewitnesses or physical evidence tied Patrick to the crime, Det. Kato and his team pursued him doggedly. We now know that authorities decided to investigate Patrick because of an anonymous tip—a tip which the informant now admits was false.
Police and prosecutors claim Patrick went to the police station voluntarily for questioning, was not placed under arrest, and that no coercive tactics were used to procure his statement. The record shows that police surrounded the house where Patrick was picked up, handcuffed him, and kept him at the police station overnight for interrogation. Patrick, tired and afraid, was physical and verbally abused until he falsely confessed, reciting a story that was spoon-fed to him by Det. Kato.
Detective Kato has a longstanding “pattern and practice” of misconduct that is strikingly similar to that which was employed in Patrick’s case. Like many of the other victims who have alleged abuse by Kato, Patrick underwent hours of torture before he falsely confessed. He was handcuffed to a wall with cuffs that were increasingly tightened, verbally abused for hours, and beat multiple times around his ribs and neck. Under the threat of more abuse, Patrick recited the story concocted by Kato.
The Exoneration Project has documented at least 24 instances in two decades of similar alleged abuse by Det. Kato. Kato claims many of the victims’ confessions–just like Patrick’s–were given when the suspect remained overnight at the police station “voluntarily.” All 24 victims describe physical and verbal abuse akin to the tactics used to coerce Patrick’s false confession. Of these 24 instances, 12 cases had positive outcomes despite Kato’s interference.