MODESTO (CBS13) — A mentally challenged teenager confessed to a murder, and now his family is suing the Modesto Police Department as the teen is no longer facing charges.
Anthony Nunez, 17, was arrested for a 2012 drive-by shooting and confessed to the crime during an interrogation with police, but was later found not guilty.
A complaint filed in federal court says the officers had interrogated Nunez until he said what they wanted to hear.
“Really what was happening was my client was repeating to the officer what the officer was telling him,” said defense attorney Bob Chase.
The complaint says the night Nunez was arrested, officers were informed Nunez was mentally challenged and could not properly comprehend police interrogations.
“You get a kid who’s unsophisticated, not terribly bright, you’ve got an officer who is well versed in the techniques on how to do these interrogations, eventually they will break someone down,” Chase said.
The suit says police interviewed the teen for several hours and denied him access to his mother, food, and water. The result: The 17-year-old confessed to the crime.
Former deputy district attorney Doug Maner prosecuted the case back in 2012.
“Sometimes it takes a while for law enforcement to get the truth out of someone,” he said. “If he had any serious mental defects, the court would take them into account and have accommodations to protect his rights.”
Nunez was found not guilty because the judge sided with the defense, ruling his confession was inadmissible because it was coerced.
“It was not my opinion that the law enforcement violated Mr. Nunez’s rights in this case,” Maner said. “They interviewed him for an extended amount of time, but he never left, he never invoked—never asked for a lawyer. He stayed voluntarily and participated in the interview process.”
Now the family is seeking compensation in the case, because they believe officers took advantage of Anthony’s diminished mental capacity to get that confession.
Modesto Police said they can’t comment on ongoing cases, but are looking forward to the opportunity to present the facts of the case in court.
CBS13 attempted to reach Nunez’s attorney, but we did not hear back.