In what has become a trend among young adults and police interactions, a Brooklyn teen is finding the courage to speak out against NYPD officers that coerced him into taking the blame for a deadly fire. In early April, the fire engulfed an apartment building at 2007 Surf Avenue, where detectives determined that a twin mattress had originally been set a blaze. The now 18 year old Marcell Dockery originally told police he was attempting to alert neighbors after he stumbled upon the fire but after interrogation, his statement changed dramatically.
“They told me they would evict my family if I didn’t say the truth,” said Marcell Dockery who testified on his own behalf in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Tuesday.
While the arson carries significant punishment by the law, the teen could face the rest of his life in prison because an NYPD officer’s life was claimed by the fire. NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra died on the scene of the fire while another officer, Rosa Rodriguez, suffered severe lung damage. Dockery originally painted a picture for officers where he was heroic in alerting his neighbors about the blaze and that his own cousin was the first to call the fire department after they reached safety.
During the tense interrogation all captured on video, viewers can see Dockery frightened while talking to detectives. Despite his pleas, the young man was allegedly denied the opportunity to call his mother as detectives continued to berate him with questions.
“They laughed at me. They said they would beat me up. No one will care about my screams. I asked them to ‘please believe me that I didn’t do this,'” Dockery told the jurors.
in a decision made by the Supreme Court as recent as 2011, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said there is “no reason for police officers or courts to blind themselves to [the] commonsense reality” that “children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances” would not. In the decision, the Justice points to research and studies that conclusively show that young adults are less mature and less capable of making judgment without outside influences.
This case rings true for many African American males in the wake of situations like The Central Park Five and other instances where young men are often coerced into taking the fall after being interrogated without the consent of their guardians As the court decides if Dockery has a case, parents must pause to inform their children of their rights in case they handle a police interaction on their own.
“Detective Nash said the only way out was if I told them the truth I wouldn’t be charged. I asked ‘are you sure?’ Nash pulled out his cross and said ‘I swear you wouldn’t be charged,'” said Dockery.
As the Supreme Court carefully scrutinizes these confessions and holds police officers to a higher standard, there is hope that minors won’t take the fall for more crimes that they didn’t commit. To watch the filmed interrogation of Dockery, please click here.