Four detectives (Joe Ryan Hartley, Ryan Wolff, Mike Duffy, and Heather Mykes) and one investigator (Michael Dickson) conducted an investigation into a 2009 burglary and sexual assault of an eight-year-old girl in Douglas County, Colorado.
40 Years Old, 190 Pounds
The child described her attacker as a man roughly 40 years of age weighing about 190 pounds with no tattoos and had brown hair parted down the middle.
18-Year-Old with Substantial Cognitive Difficulties
One week later the detectives questioned 18-year-old Tyler Sanchez, a disabled man with pronounced cognitive disabilities and an IQ in the range of 60 to 70. Sanchez weighed 130 pounds and had prominent tattoos on both arms and had red hair in a buzz cut.
17 Hour Interrogation Leads to Confession
Over a 17-hour period on July 17, 2009, the detectives secured a confession from Sanchez but not for the sexual assault of the girl. The interrogation lasted these incredibly long hours despite Sanchez telling the detectives he was tired and needed sleep.
Beaten down and unable to provide any specific details about the crime, Sanchez ultimately parroted details provided to him by the interrogators. He even went on to confess to a litany of other burglaries in the area that were eventually connected to other individuals.
The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back in this case came when DNA found in the assaulted girl’s underwear did not match Sanchez.
DNA Proves Wrong Guy
Oops, the tunnel-vision detectives had arrested the wrong man. Worse yet, they had brow-beaten this severally mentally-challenged suspect into falsely confessing to a crime he didn’t commit. Psychological examinations would later establish beyond any shadow of a doubt that he had confessed because his mental disabilities prevented him from understanding what the detectives were saying or doing.
The Douglas County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against Sanchez in April 2012.
Civil Rights Lawsuit
The wrongfully accused young man promptly filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the four detectives and the investigatory, alleging they secured a confession they knew to be false in order to keep him detained for a crime he did not commit.
Police Argue Immunity
Attorneys for the detectives and investigator quickly moved to have the lawsuit dismissed on the ground that they were entitled to qualified immunity because they were acting in their official capacities. It is the first defense raised by corrupt cops caught doing bad things.
Court Rejects Claims of Immunity
The U.S. District Court, however, rejected the qualified immunity defense and ruled the lawsuit could proceed. The detectives and investigator sought what is known as an “interlocutory appeal” before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, urging the appeals court to overturn the district court’s ruling on the qualified immunity issue and bar the civil rights lawsuit.
The law enforcement officials were sorely disappointed on January 11, 2016 when the Tenth Circuit ruled they were not entitled to immunity from civil damages and would have to defend their actions before a jury. The appeals court forcefully rejected every legal argument presented by the officials in their futile attempt to escape accountability for their actions.
Police Corruption Nationwide Epidemic
Cities across the nation are paying out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits against their bad cops. Between January and October 2014, the City of Chicago alone paid out nearly a half billion dollars to settle lawsuits against some of its worst cops. Still, videos continue to surface showing Chicago police unnecessarily gunning down criminal suspects. It seems there is no end to the corruption in the Chicago Police Department—which even boasts of its own law-and-order drama (NBC’s “Chicago PD”) in which police corruption and abuse are sensationalized, even glorified.
The City of Baltimore’s police department is not much different. The city was forced to settle more than 100 lawsuits between 2010 and 2014, draining the city’s coffers of millions. The city’s police department has also had its own awarding-winning law-and-order dramas based on the department’s “gritty, realistic” law enforcement tactics (NBS’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” and HBO’s “The Wire”).
The Dallas Morning News reported in 2014 that the city had paid out $6 million to cover for its cops engaging in police misconduct. The Dallas Police Department could not swing a police drama about its department but it did manage to get the reality show “Dallas Swat” for two years.
We suspect that many of these law-and-order dramas, and reality-based “cop shows,” have gone to the head of too many cops across the country.
Perhaps it’s time for these Hollywood producers to stop glorifying “edgy” cops and deal responsibly with criminal justice issues.