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The story of Michael Crowe, a 14-year-old child, exemplifies why children need protections during police interrogations. Michael’s traumatic involvement with the criminal justice system began on the night of January 20, 1998 when someone snuck into Stephanie Crowe’s bedroom and stabbed her to death. Police questioned the entire Crowe family the following day, including Michael, Stephanie’s brother. The police read Michael his Miranda rights before questioning him about the murder. However, Michael waived his Miranda rights and spoke with the detectives without an attorney or parent present.
Detectives ignored the fact that on the night of Stephanie’s murder neighbors called the police several times. Neighbors reported that a man was bothering residents and broke into a home in the Crowe’s neighborhood looking for a girl. Detectives had the wrong suspect, but they nonetheless continued to focus their attention on Michael, interrogating him four times.
In the first interview on January 21, 1998, Michael told police that he awoke with a headache around 4:30 a.m. on the morning after Stephanie was murdered, took Tylenol, and went back to his room. Michael retold the same story when police interviewed him for the second time on January 22nd. During the second interrogation, Michael also spoke about how seeing his sister “soaked in blood” the next morning made him cry. He described her as “the best person” and “kind.” Michael expressed anger towards the killer.
Later that day, police interviewed Michael for a third time for three hours even though he expressed “that he felt sick” at the beginning. Michael once again repeated what he told police during his first and second interviews and said:
I feel like I just … I spent all day away from my family. I couldn’t see them… I feel like I’m being treated like I killed my sister, and I didn’t. It feels horrible, like I’m being blamed for it … Everything I have is gone. Everything. You won’t even let me see my parents. It’s horrible.
Detectives ignored Michael’s pleas and continued to interrogate him by giving a computer stress voice analyzer test. Detectives told Michael that the test proved he was deceiving them and questioned whether there was something he was “blocking out” in his “subconscious mind.” Michael continued to deny that he murdered his sister even as detectives pressured him about whether he needed to confess something. Detectives began to tell Michael that police “found blood in his room, lifted fingerprints off the blood stains, and that the police” knew he killed Stephanie. As Michael repeatedly denied killing his sister, detectives told him that maybe he simply did not remember killing his sister. An emotional and confused Michael asked the detective “if he was sure” that he had killed his sister. To which the detective responded, “‘I’m sure about the evidence. Absolutely.’”
Finally, detectives interviewed Michael for a fourth time for over six hours on January 23, 1998. Detectives used various interrogation tactics to make Michael confess. Detectives again told Michael that the police had evidence which proved he murdered Stephanie. The detectives also played a “game” with Michael that forced Michael to explain crime scene evidence, but with a rule that Michael could not say “‘I don’t know.’” Detectives continued to tell Michael that he killed Stephanie and he did not remember and “introduced the idea that there were ‘two Michaels,’ a ‘good Michael’ and a ‘bad Michael.’” Finally, detectives told Michael “if he confessed he would get help rather than go to jail.” The detectives continued to pressure Michael into confessing, which resulted in the following exchange:
- If I tell you a story, the evidence is going to be a complete lie.
Q. Well, then, tell us the story.
A. Well, I’ll lie. I’ll have to make it up.
Q. Tell us the story, Michael.
A. You want me to tell you a little story?
Q. Tell us the story. What happened that night?
A. Okay. I’m going to warn you right now. It is a complete lie.
Q. Tell us the story.
A. Okay. This is true. I am extremely jealous of my sister.
A. She’s always had a lot of friends and good friends and stuff like that. She was friends with people my age, all the popular girls and stuff like that. That’s true. Okay…Okay. Here is the part where I’ll start lying. That night I thought about her. I couldn’t take it anymore. Okay. So I got a knife, went into her room and I stabbed her….
Q. How many times did you stab her?
A. It’s going to be a lie. Three times…
Q. Tell me what the truth is.
A. The only reason I’m trying to lie here is because you presented me with two paths. I’d rather die than go to jail.
The detectives finally had what they saw as a confession and proceeded with criminal charges against Michael. Michael’s story stands as a testament to why the legal community and society as a whole must fight to ensure that the legal injustice, psychological manipulation, and emotional trauma Michael endured during police interrogations does not happen to any other child.
 Crowe v. Cty. of San Diego, 608 F.3d 406, 417 (9th Cir. 2010).
 Id. at 418.
 Id. at 417.
 Id. at 418-419.
 Id. at 418.
 Id. at 418-419.
 Id. at 419.
 Id. at 420.
 Id. at 420-421.
 Id. at 421.
 Id. at 422.