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Crowe/Houser Civil Lawsuit Moving Forward

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8Hf1OqV-5E

Video published January 14, 2011 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: North County 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe was murdered 13 years ago, but the Crowe family's civil lawsuit against Escondido and Oceanside police detectives could finally be moving forward in federal court. KPBS Senior News Editor Mark Sauer, who's covered the case since the girl's slaying in 1998, joins us to explain the latest legal ruling.

North County 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe was murdered 13 years ago, but the Crowe family's civil lawsuit against Escondido and Oceanside police detectives could finally be moving forward in federal court. KPBS Senior News Editor Mark Sauer, who's covered the case since the girl's slaying in 1998, joins us to explain the latest legal ruling.

Guest

Mark Sauer, KPBS Senior News Editor

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

IT HAS BEEN 1 YEARS SINCE THE MURDER OF TWELVE-YEAR-OLD STEPHANIE CROW, BUT THE CROW FAMILY'S CIVIL LAWSUIT AGAINST THE OCEAN SIDE POLICE DETECTIVES COULD FINALLY BE MOVING FORWARD IN FEDERAL COURT. JOINING US TO EXPLAIN THE LATEST LEGAL RULING IS KPBS SENIOR NEWS EDITOR MARK SAUER WHO COVERED THE CASE SINCE THE GIRL'S SLAYING IN 1998. THANKS, MARK, FOR COMING. WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES THE CASE OF STEPHANIE CROW DISTINCTIVE? IT IS A MURDER CASE, BUT WHY IS IT DIFFERENT?

IT WAS A SHOCKING CASE TO BEGIN WITH. THIS GIRL WAS FOUND SLAIN ON HER BEDROOM FLOOR. HER FAMILY DISCOVERS THAT, AND THEY CALL 911. THE POLICE SHOW UP AND INSTEAD OF LOOKING AT A FAR MORE LOGICAL SUSPECT, A PROW LEER WHO THEY HAD TWO 911 CALLS ABOUT THAT EVENING, THE EVENING OF THE MURDER, THEY FOCUSED ON HER BROTHER. THEY THOUGHT IT WAS AN INSIDE JOB. THEY SAID WE'RE GOING TO SEE WHO IN THIS HOUSE KILLED THIS GIRL AND THEY FOCUSED ON MICHAEL CROW.

A KID, HE WAS A KID.

HE WAS 14 YEARS OLD. THEY WERE COMPLETELY WRONG. THEY BROUGHT HIM IN, IN, INTRERGTED HIM FOR MANY YEARS WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY, WITHOUT HIS PARENT'S KNOWLEDGE AND THEY BOTCHED THE INVESTIGATION FROM START TO FINISH. THEY BROUGHT IN TWO OF HIS CLOSE FRIENDS, JOSH TREEDWAY AND AARON HOW'SER AND INTERROGATED THEM FOR MANY HOURS, CAME UP WITH TWO CONFESSIONS IN THIS CASE, ONE FROM MIKEEL AND ONE FROM JOSH TREEDWAY, AND FORTUNATELY THEY WERE VIDEOTAPED AND YOU CAN SEE AND THE JURIES EVENTUALLY COULD AND JUDGES TAKE APART WHAT HAPPENED IN THAT INTERROGATION ROOM AND WHY THEY DIDN'T HOLD UP AND EVENTUALLY THROUGH THE GOOD WORK OF A DEFENSE ATTORNEY MARY ELLE LEN ATRIDGE STEPHANIE'S BLOOD WAS FOUND ON THE RED SWEATSHIRT WORN BY RICHARD TO AT THE NIGHT OF THE HEARD.

AND HE WAS A VAG RANT BASICALLY WASN'T HE?

HE WAS WELL KNOWN TO POLICE, WELL KNOWN TO POLICE THROUGHOUT THE NORTH COUNTY, BEEN A PROW LEER, SNEAKED INTO HOMES MANY, MANY TIMES, HE HAS LONG HISTORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND DRUG ABUSE, AND WAS A FAR MORE LIKELY SUSPECT, BUT THEY DISMISSED HIM. THEY DIDN'T THINK THAT HE COULD POSSIBLY HAVE COMMITTED THIS CRIME, AND THE CROW'S ATTORNEY WILL ARGUE IF THIS CASE GETS INTO FEDERAL COURT IF THE WAY HAS BEEN CLEARED THAT THEY HAD EVERY MOTIVE NOT TO WANT TO BE THE KILLER BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T CATCH HIM THE NIGHT BEFORE, AND PLEASE LET IT BE SOMEBODY IN THAT HOUSE AND NOT THE GUY WE DIDN'T CATCH.

OKAY. SO THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED THEN. THIS WEEK WHAT IS IT THAT IS PUSHING THIS CASE AHEAD NOW?

THIS CASE HAS GONE ON FOR 13 YEARS IN FEDERAL COURT. THE CROW FAMILY, ALL THREE FAMILIES ACTUALLY HAD SUED, SAYING THAT THEIR SONS RIGHTS, CIVIL RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED AGAINST SELF INCRIMINATION, AND UNDER THE FIFTH AND 14th AMENDMENTS, AND THAT LAWSUIT WAS BASICALLY GUTTED SEVERAL YEARS AGO BY A FEDERAL COURT JUDGE HERE. THE CROWS APPEALED, AND THE HAUSERS APPEALED, AND THE NINTH CIRCUIT COURT A YEAR AGO SAID THAT THAT CASE CAN GO FORWARD. RICHARD TUIT WAS THE KILLER, THESE BOYST SHOCKED THE CONSCIENCE WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM IN THE INTERROGATION ROOM AND THEY ARE ALLOWED TO SUED. ESCANDIDO AND OCEAN SIDE DECIDED TO APPEAL AND THE SUPREME COURT SAID WE'RE NOT GOING TO HEAR THE APPEAL AND THE NINTH CIRCUIT RULING IS THE LAW OF THE LAND AND IT MAY TAB TOWARD.

THE KEY TO THIS ARE THE COERCED CONFESSIONS. HOW COMMON ARE COERCED CONFESSIONS?

THEY ARE UNFORTUNATELY RARE OTHERWISE IT WOULD BE CHAOS IN OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM, BUT THEY DO OCCUR. WE HAVE HAD MORE THAN 200 MEN RELEASED FROM DEATH ROW ALMOST ALL EXONERATED BY DNA EVIDENCE IN RECENT YEARS. FULLY ONE QUARTER OF THOSE CASES INVOLVE CONFESSIONS BY DEFINITION, COERCED AND FALSE CONFESSIONS, AND IN FACT THE CROW CASE WE HAVE A CHAPTER, MY COLLEAGUE AT THE UNION TRIBUNE JOHN WILKINS AND I WROTE A CHAPTER ON THE CROW I SAY CAY, PART OF 20 CHAPTERS IN THE BOOK, TRUE STORIES OF FALSE CONFESSIONS PUBLISHED BY THE NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY PRESS LAST YEAR. JOHN GRISHAM HAS A CHAPTER IN THERE. THEY'RE ALL TRUE CASES OF PEOPLE WHO CONFESSED TO MURDERS THEY DIDN'T COMMIT.

THIS WILL GO TO TRIAL OR WHAT?

IT WILL GO TO TRIAL OR SETTLE. IT COULD BE WORTH MILLIONS, THIS CASE, BUT I DON'T THINK IT WILL AFFECT THE BUDGETS OF OCEAN SIDE OR ESCANDIDO BECAUSE INSURANCE WILL COVER IT.

THANK YOU, MARK.

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