A 16 year old Worcester mother is accused of killing her toddler. Nga Troung repeatedly tells police she didn’t do it. But after hours of aggressive questioning, she admits to suffocating her son.
Questions Remain In Coerced Worcester Confession | WBUR
Anatomy Of A Bad Confession, Part 2
Lawyer: Confession video shows ‘emotional torture’
Presumption of innocence applies to the accused
YOUR STORY on acquittal rates in cases of operating under the influence presents an incomplete and misleading picture of the status of OUI arrests and convictions in Massachusetts (‘‘For drunk drivers, a habit of judicial leniency,’’ Page A1, Oct. 30).
Northborough Police Chief Mark K. Leahy’s lament regarding acquittal rates — ‘‘we absolutely are not wrong 85 and 90 percent of the time’’— fails to acknowledge that, of the 17,000 people charged with drunk driving each year, 11 percent are found not guilty. That means that for about every 10 people arrested for OUI, only one will be found not guilty.
Contrary to the Globe’s implication that OUI arrests are down because the acquittal rate discourages police from making arrests, the State Police attribute the decline in OUI arrests to a lack of funding and a decrease in personnel. National statistics and data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving indicate OUI arrests are down nationally and regionally in part because of heightened enforcement and better driver awareness of the significant penalties they face if caught driving drunk.
Every person arrested for an OUI is entitled to a trial at which the Commonwealth must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence applies to accused drunk drivers, despite the apparent desire of the Globe Spotlight Team to presume otherwise.
Edward P. Ryan Jr.
November 02, 2011
Charges dropped against mother who admitted suffocating baby
By Gary V. Murray TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER – Nga Truong walked out of the courthouse a free woman today, after prosecutors dropped a murder charge against her in the Nov. 30, 2008, death of her 13-month-old son.
The charge against the now 19-year-old Ms. Truong was dropped by Senior First Assistant District Attorney Daniel J. Bennett this morning after a Feb. 25 ruling by Judge Janet Kenton-Walker suppressing Ms. Truong’s alleged confession.
Investigators said Ms. Truong, a 16-year-old South High junior at the time, initially told them she found Khyle Truong unconscious in his crib, but later admitted suffocating the baby with a teddy bear.
Mr. Bennett said in the nolle prosequi, an entry in the court record reflecting a prosecutor’s decision not to proceed with a criminal case after charges have been lodged, that Judge Kenton-Walker’s suppression order left his office without enough evidence to go forward.
Ms. Truong, who has remained in custody without bail for nearly three years at the Chicopee Women’s Correctional Center, was to be released upon her arrival at the courthouse later in the day, according to her lawyer, Edward P. Ryan Jr.
“As I said the first day I got the case and as I say today, she did not harm her child. The alleged confession was extracted from her involuntarily and was false. She would have confessed to killing Jimmy Hoffa if they asked her to,” Mr. Ryan said.
Judge Kenton-Walker found that Ms. Truong’s statements to Detectives Kevin Pageau and John Doherty were not made voluntarily and that investigators did not offer her a “genuine opportunity,” as required by law, to consult with a parent, interested adult or lawyer about her right to remain silent before she spoke with police.
The death certificate on file in Worcester city clerk’s office attributed the boy’s death to “asphyxial death consistent with but not exclusively diagnostic of suffocation.” Streptococcal pharyngitis and trachea-bronchitis contributed to Khyle’s death, according to the death certificate.
The judge also found that the detectives resorted to “deception regarding medical evidence” during the course of their interrogation and continually told Ms. Truong “that she was just a juvenile and if she would admit what she did she would remain in the juvenile court where she could get help.”
“When, as here, there exists a combination of trickery and implied promises, together with Nga’s young age, lack of experience and sophistication, her emotional state, as well as the aggressive nature of the interrogation, the totality of the circumstances suggests a situation potentially coercive to the point of making an innocent person confess to a crime,” the judge wrote.
Her son was not the first child to die while in Ms. Troung’s care. In 2000, when she was 8 years old, her 3-month-old brother, Hien Tuan Truong, died from what was later determined to be sudden infant death syndrome while she was watching him.
Celina Cass murder investigation deepens
From Whitey Bulger to Casey Anthony, Attorney Ed Ryan dissects these two cases that have been topping news headlines.
Defending ‘Whitey’: Can Bulger mount a stunning defense and beat the rap like O.J. Simpson did?
Back in 1994, I bumped into Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz at a party. O.J. Simpson was in the news; the former football star had been arrested for the murder of his ex-wife and a friend. There was no doubt about whodunit; the media helpfully explained that Simpson butchered the victims, disposed of the incriminating evidence, and calmly drove to the airport.
Evidence abounded: traces of blood, a nearly unique shoe print, and of course the famous glove. Dershowitz had litigated his clients out of equally tight spots and warned me not to rush to judgment. Wait and see, he counseled. Wait and see.
We saw. Dershowitz was part of the defense team that won a stunning courtroom victory over Los Angeles prosecutors in what looked like an open-and-shut murder case. Can it happen here? Can “Whitey” Bulger beat the rap? Let’s ask the experts.
Right off the bat, Robert Peabody, a former state and federal prosecutor, rejects the comparison between the O.J. and Whitey cases. “The Simpson case was in the contours of one evening,” he said. “The Whitey Bulger indictments concern events spread over 25 years. Federal prosecutors have the luxury of taking time to accumulate a mountain of evidence, and in Whitey’s absence, they have.”
I was curious what affirmative defenses might be available to Whitey, a fancy way of saying could he offer up any excuses for his activities? Self-defense? Defense of others? Not likely, commented former Massachusetts Bar Association president Edward Ryan Jr., also a criminal defense expert. Ryan recalls that Watergate burglar James McCord Jr. offered a creative “defense of property” argument while on trial for the 1972 Watergate break-in, asserting that by surreptitiously entering the Democratic National Committee offices, McCord was in fact defending the United States on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency.
That didn’t work. “Duress and coercion” are two other affirmative defenses. “Those won’t fly in the case of homicide,” Ryan said. Equally unlikely, in my view, is an insanity defense. Whitey seems to be hitting on most of his cylinders. Whitey’s lawyers might also assert an immunity defense. As an FBI informant, he could plead “that he had government authorization to commit crimes to further their interests,” according to Ryan.
There are an ocean of “bad facts” and tainted evidence buttressing the government’s case. “There is that taint of the FBI,” said Randy Chapman, former president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Following a famous set of hearings in 1998, federal judge Mark Wolf, who is now hearing the Bulger case, lambasted the Bureau for its inappropriate use of informants such as Whitey.
“The quality of evidence that was collected at the time is potentially an important issue,” Chapman said, “although that alone isn’t enough to mount a defense. There are so many moving parts in this case.”
“You could juxtapose the testimony of the State Police against the FBI, and then who are we going to believe?” Ryan commented. “The State Police saying he wasn’t really providing useful information, or the FBI, whose star agent John Connolly was using Bulger for personal gain?”
“Is the government case backed up by choirboys and angels? Of course not,” Ryan said. “They will have to rely on the worst sort of criminals as the mainstay of their case.” Any good lawyer will assail their character and their credibility. “Of course attacks on snitches haven’t worked that well lately.” Ryan added. “That didn’t work for John Connolly, it didn’t work for John Gotti, and it didn’t work for Sal DiMasi either.”
“The standard defense is to exclude, suppress, and exclude and suppress,” said Peabody. “As a defense attorney, you want to winnow the case down to the smallest particle of evidence left.”
Should Whitey plea out or stand trial? Same difference, said Chapman, who doesn’t expect a trial for at least two years, and can’t imagine Whitey cutting a deal that could keep him out of prison. “The plea would probably be for the rest of his life,” Chapman noted. “It’s not going to get any worse. What would happen if everything went wrong? He’d still spend the rest of his life in jail.”
Could Whitey beat the rap? Long odds, these lawyers thought. “It’s hard to get acquitted on as many counts as he is facing,” Peabody said. “They’re going to hook him on one.”
Or not. Remember O.J. Stranger things have happened.
Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company
July 1, 2011
Bulger Back In Court Tuesday; Greig Hires Lawyer: Lawyers On Both Sides Have Monday Deadline To Argue Issue
“Arson suspects Michael P. Dreslinski and John D. Rousseau, both of Clinton, had been spotted by police across the state since previous charges against Mr. Rousseau of setting five fires in Clinton were dropped last December and he was released from house arrest.
“Reports from various police departments and other agencies that the two 28-year-old men had been seen in the evening and early morning hours at various, far-apart cities and towns would be regularly posted on the Clinton Police Department bulletin board. Among the locations were Wayland, Sudbury and Rutland, and Greenfield and Rowe in the western part of the state. …” [Read More]
Murder Case Challenges Witness Testimony
“A Fitchburg murder defendant’s questioning of police procedures in interviewing witnesses in his case is the latest in what has become a trend in which lawyers doubt the accuracy of witness testimony and identifications. … Worcester Superior Court Judge John S. McCann has held pretrial hearings that could last through next week in the case of John Y. Yang, who is charged with murder. Mr. Yang has questioned the same police techniques that are now being reformed throughout the state. The hearing is expected to continue today at 11 a.m. … Fitchburg-based lawyer Edward P. Ryan Jr. has challenged the accuracy of witness statements and police handling of the witnesses. …”
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Sept. 15, 2004
Partial Settlement In Suit Alleging Priest Abuse
“Timothy P. Staney, formerly of Worcester and now of Wesley Chapel, Fla., has partially settled his lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by the Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon and Raymond Tremblay, a former religious education teacher. The lawyers involved would not discuss terms of settlement, but no paperwork filed with the court shows there was admission of guilt by Rev. Gagnon or Mr. Tremblay, or if any payment had been made. … Mr. Staney and his parents, Joseph C. and Corinne Staney of Spencer, were represented by Daniel J. Shea of Houston. Mr. Tremblay was represented by James J. Gribouski of Worcester. Rev. Gagnon was represented by Edward P. Ryan Jr. of Fitchburg. …”
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
June 3, 2004
‘Fairness’ Should Be Focus In Evaluating Judges, Lawyers Say
“The manner in which judges are evaluated is among the hottest topics for lawyers in 2004. With a steady drumbeat of criticism over the past several years, the local media has pounced upon judges who have made unpopular decisions … Most members of the bar would like to answer these charges by demonstrating to the public what nearly every lawyer seems to agree upon: that while ‘problem’ judges certainly do exist, the vast majority of judges are very good at what they do. The [Massachusetts Bar Association] already had its toe in the water when it came to judge evaluations. In 2000, Edward P. Ryan became the first bar president to launch statewide judicial evaluations. The evaluations were conducted by mail and concluded that 92 percent of judges were doing a ‘favorable’ job. At the time, Ryan saw the effort as precursor to an annual procedure that might be expanded. But the bar presidents who followed Ryan dropped the project, and it has not been revived until now. …”
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
April 5, 2004
Defendant Sentenced To Low End Of Guidelines Range
“A federal judge told a 22-year-old Worcester man yesterday that he is lucky: He will be getting out of prison while he still has some youth left in him. One more conviction, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton warned Nicholas Aghapour, and it may be a one-way trip to the penitentiary. Judge Gorton imposed a four-year, nine-month sentence on the shackled Mr. Aghapour on a charge of being a felon in possession of ammunition. It was the lowest possible sentence called for under federal sentencing guidelines, and it was agreed to by prosecutor Paul G. Casey and defense lawyer Edward P. Ryan Jr. of Fitchburg as a result of a plea agreement. …”
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Oct. 30, 2003
Officers Applaud New Bike Equipment
“It was in the spring when Police Chief Edward F. Cronin, still new on the job, sought guidance from Main Street merchants at a community meeting at the Fay Club. … The merchants said they wanted more of a visible presence downtown. Several months later, [Kit Tucker, owner of Roux Travel] and several businesses helped make that happen by donating to the Police Department’s community support unit. … The donations helped fund a new program in which police officers patrol downtown on mountain bikes instead of police cruisers. … Close to $6,000 in donations — with Mr. Tucker, Banknorth Massachusetts and attorney Edward P. Ryan Jr., of O’Connor and Ryan, P.C. on Academy Street, being the main contributors — helped equip eight officers on the bike patrol. …”
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Sept. 3, 2003
New Drunk Driving Law Enacted
Under a Massachusetts law enacted in July 2003, a driver is automatically deemed to be legally intoxicated if an alcohol breath test showed a reading of .08 or higher. In addition, the new law, increases the initial license suspension for refusal to take an alcohol breath test from 120 days to 180 days and decreases the initial license suspension for drivers who take the breath test and fail from 90 days to 30 days.
Click here to read an overview of the new law.