Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

June 24, 2013

Going too far

High court unanimously agrees confession was coerced

ASHLAND — Police officers in Todd County were so over-the-line in their questioning of Garrett Thomas Dye in connection with the beating death of his 9-year-old sister, that the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously voted to overturn Dye’s conviction for the murder. That decisions does not necessarily mean Dye, who is serving 50 years in prison, will automatically be freed. But it does mean that Dye will receive a new trial.

Investigators repeatedly threatened Dye, then 17, with the prospect of execution and being sexually assaulted in prison unless he admitted to the beating death of his sister, Amy Dye. Their tactics resulted in a coerced confession, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled. In addition to granting a new trial for Dye, the state’s highest court ordered a trial court to determine if evidence collected based on the statements should be allowed at the trial.

“Not only did the officer erroneously convey that (Dye) was death-eligible, but also that he was certain to receive a death sentence unless he confessed to his sister’s murder,” Justice Will T. Scott wrote. “We hold that repeatedly threatening a 17-year-old with the death penalty is objectively coercive.”

The impact of the ruling extends beyond this one case by placing limits on what investigators may say to teenaged suspects during an interrogation.

Scott also concluded four officers made “inappropriate allusions” to prison violence and rape throughout the interrogation. “Everybody’s gonna forget about you until you get to Eddyville then they’ll remind you of what happened. Every day they’ll remind you,” an officer told Dye.

“We will not feign ignorance to the fact that the officers were alluding to prison violence and-or rape and that is precisely how (Dye) understood these comments,” Scott wrote.

The girl’s death drew the attention of state lawmakers. Records in the case were eventually released showing social workers either ignored or dismissed allegations of abuse and neglect against the child.

Amy Dye went missing Feb. 4, 2011, after spending the afternoon with her brother shoveling gravel. Police found the body early the next morning in a thicket about 100 yards from the Dye home. Investigators confiscated shovels, clothes, shoes and took a DNA swab from Garrett Dye.

Dye’s father told officers he didn’t want the teen questioned without an attorney present and he was released. Police arrested Dye the next day and charged him in the slaying.

During four hours of interrogation, police repeatedly told Dye he would be executed for killing his sister with a jack handle. But Dye could not have been executed under a U.S. Supreme Court decision barring the death penalty for anyone under 18 at the time of a crime. The officers also didn’t disclose that Dye couldn’t have received a death sentence because there were no aggravating factors to the slaying, which is required under Kentucky law to bring a capital case.

The officers repeatedly told Dye he would be sexually assaulted and possibly beaten in prison if he went to death row at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville. Dye at one point said he wanted to speak with a lawyer. Officers later told Dye if he chose to speak with a lawyer before talking to them, he would lose an opportunity to tell the truth.

Those threats and omissions were enough to overcome Dye’s will and ability to make a rational decision about whether to talk to investigators, Scott wrote. Based on Dye’s statement, officers returned to the house and seized more evidence, including shovels and other yard working equipment. The admissibility of those materials at trial should be decided by a judge, Scott wrote.

Whether Garrett Thomas Dye killed his sister is not the issue here. It is whether police used improper tactics to coerce a confession. Every member of the Kentucky Supreme Court is convinced they did. Because of their actions, Dye will get a new trial. He deserves one.

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • Positive trend

    For those adults who have a low opinion of American teenagers, Uncle Sam’s latest study of worrisome behavior among teens provides some good news: Teens are smoking less, drinking less and fighting less. Most forms of drug use, weapons use and risky sex also are declining — and have been since 1991, the year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first started surveying teens about  their behavior.

    July 24, 2014

  • Research's value

    In pushing for a higher education reform bill in the late 1990s, former Gov. Paul Patton set an ambitious goal of having the University of Kentucky become a Top 20 research university by 2020. UK has yet to accomplish that goal, but UK and the University of Louisville both have made great advances in research in recent years.

    July 24, 2014

  • Deadline is near

    People with Kentucky driver’s licenses may soon be required to show a passport or some other accepted form of federal identification to enter “restricted” or “semi-restricted” areas of federal facilities, including federal courthouses, military bases, federal prisons and a wide range of other federal offices.

    July 23, 2014

  • Issue is safety

    The Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control has recommended softball  “players at first base, third base and pitcher utilize the permissive requirement in the playing rules and wear face/head protection.”

    July 23, 2014

  • More difficult

    In a state like Kentucky with the number of adults who have not graduated from high school is much higher than the national average, undereducated adults have been encouraged to earn high-school equivalency degrees by studying for, taking and passing the General Educational Development (GED) test.

    May 22, 2014

  • Primary election sends messages

    The voters — or at least the minority who took the time to go to the polls Tuesday — have spoken, with Boyd County voters sending mixed messages in the county-wide races that gathered the most attention.

    May 21, 2014

  • Click it or Ticket

    "Click it or Ticket” is a phrase used so often in recent years most of us hardly give it a thought.

    May 21, 2014

  • Top trooper

    Thumbs up to Trooper First Class Shane Goodall of Flatwoods for being named 2013 Trooper of the Year for Kentucky.

    May 20, 2014

  • 05/18/2014 — This Week in the Tri-State

    Local news

    May 18, 2014

  • 0518greene.jpeg Greene-Lounsberry

    John and Eva Greene of Greenup are proud to announce the engagement of their daughter, Stacey Nicole Greene, to Jonathan Wesley Lounsberry.

    May 18, 2014 1 Photo