October 21, 2014

Supreme Court throws out Waterloo man’s confession, orders new trial

The Iowa Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a Waterloo man, saying an officer went too far in getting him to give a confession.

Anthony Polk was already in the Black Hawk County jail when an officer came to question him about another crime — a gang-related shooting during the Waterloo Fourth of July celebration in 2008.

Polk, who was 22 at the time, had been identified by a witness as the man who shot two others following an argument. Polk invoked his fifth amendment right to remain silent, and then the officer urged him to cooperate by saying his help would lead to leniency from the county attorney.

Polk was still reluctant to answer questions and wanted to leave, but the officer then told him he would be charged and that would mean it would be a long time before he got to see his kids. Polk then confessed to the shooting and was convicted of three weapons charges that could result in 10 years of prison time.

Polk appealed his conviction saying the officer’s promise of leniency violated his right to remain silent. The Court of Appeals said the officer’s tactics came “dangerously close to the line” in getting the confession from Polk, but upheld the confession.

The Iowa Supreme Court however said the officer did go over the line by promising leniency, and then saying Polk would not see his kids for “a long time” unless he confessed. It threw out the confession and sent the case back to district court for a new trial.

See the complete ruling here: Polk opinion PDF.