MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The mini-series “When They See Us," based on the wrongful convictions of five teenagers raised national attention about the rights of juveniles.
According to the nonprofit National Registry of Exonerations, 98 of the 309 false confessions it has chronicled since 1974 are from defendants under the age of 19.
One local defense attorney wants to stop that list from growing.
In June 2018, police picked up 17-year-old Oshay Sims to question him about the murder of another teenager.
“They were transporting me, the police station, I assumed it was. Because I did not know it was homicide, because they didn’t tell me it was homicide,” said Oshay’s mother, Angelique Sims.
Angelique told FOX13 she suffers from depression and schizophrenia and couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
“So we were signing the Miranda rights, you know. We signed the Miranda rights but we didn’t know what the Miranda rights were for.”
She said when police went to take her son’s fingerprints, she had a panic attack. She said police took her home and never told her Oshay was a suspect in a murder.
Oshay confessed after five hours of questioning, but his mother told FOX13 he was pressured into the confession.
“When he was in jail they said they coerced him,” said Angelique.
Angelique said she asked her son if he committed the crime.
“He said ‘mommy you know I would not go anything like that,’" Angelique told FOX13.
Kamilah Turner was Oshay’s attorney. She believes that too many juvenile suspects in Memphis and in Tennessee are like Oshay.
“He was a juvenile. He was questioned without a parent, without a guardian and without a lawyer,” said Turner. “Law enforcement should know that the chances of a false confession with a juvenile are so high that they need to be extra cautious,."
Turned said she wants to change Tennessee law to require a lawyer to be present when police question a juvenile for serious crimes.
“Children shouldn’t be interviewed without a lawyer on a homicide, period. Never,” said Turner.
In 1998 the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled “[T]he admissibility of a juvenile’s confession is not dependent upon the presence of his parents at the interrogation."
A juvenile can waive his Miranda rights if law enforcement considers “the juveniles age, experience, education, and intelligence” barring “any intoxication” or “any mental... disorder.”
“I am doing it for the other Oshays in memory of Oshay," said Turner.
After 13 months in both juvenile then adult lock-up, Turner got Oshay released without bond. In September of this year, Oshay died in a car accident.
“Something greater has to come from this. There has to be some greater purpose behind everything that has happened," said Turner.
FOX13 reached out to Memphis Police to ask about the allegations that their detectives pressured Oshay into a confession. Through a spokesperson the department said," We followed policy and guidelines during our interview of Oshay Sims."
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