News June 16, 2022 at 10:30 am

After a year in jail, teen files lawsuit alleging detectives forced him to confess to murder he didn’t commit

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

Francis Akhalbey June 16, 2022 at 10:30 am

June 16, 2022 at 10:30 am | News

Corinthian “Corey” Burns alleges Waukegan Police detectives forced him to confess to a murder he did not commit -- Image: Waukegan, IL police department video

An Illinois teen who spent 16 months and nine days in jail has filed a lawsuit alleging that detectives forced him to confess to a murder he did not commit. According to WBEZ, Corinthian “Corey” Burns, in the lawsuit, accuses Waukegan police detectives of lying to him on several occasions and not providing him a lawyer upon his request during the 2018 interrogation.

Burns was 15 years old at the time, and the interrogation lasted the whole night, according to the lawsuit. Authorities ultimately brought first-degree murder charges against the teen in the wake of his confession. A judge eventually dismissed the confession, and he was released after spending over a year in jail.

Burns’ case comes in the wake of Waukegan police rendering an apology after detectives in the department forced 15-year-old Martell Williams to falsely confess to opening fire on a store clerk. And just like Burns, Williams was charged with the crime, but authorities ultimately dropped the charges after the teen’s family managed to prove that he was in another town for a basketball game when the shooting happened. Williams’ lawyer also claimed that the city’s police tried bribing the teen with McDonald’s in an attempt to get him to confess to the crimes he was being detained for, Face2Face Africa reported at the time.

“A good investigator can get an adult to say things that they did not do, especially over a long period of interrogating,” former Waukegan Det. Larnell Farmer said, adding that getting a false confession from a child suspect isn’t a herculean task.

“If that kid confesses to killing Jimmy Hoffa, then we write that down [and] he must be guilty,” Farmer said. “All that juvenile wants to do is to get out of that room.”

Burns filed the May 28 lawsuit against Waukegan, Lake County, and multiple current and former county and city officials. “The only evidence that tied Corey to the murder was a false confession and false evidence concocted and coerced by the defendants,” the lawsuit states.

Burns was arrested in connection with an altercation that led to a shooting at a car show on July 13, 2018. 19-year-old Daiyon Bolden was fatally shot, and another person was wounded. 

Burns’ attorneys stated in the filing that the people who were at the scene of the incident “dispersed in every direction” shortly after the shooting. “The witnesses did not have ample time to view the suspect.”

Police arrested Burns around 11 p.m., and he and a friend were “paraded out in the street in handcuffs for several show-up identifications,” his attorneys state, per WBEZ. But the descriptions witnesses gave of the shooter and the other young suspects were said to be contradictory.

Burns was interrogated in a police station basement. But per Illinois law, officers are mandated to “immediately make a reasonable attempt” to get in touch with a parent or guardian of a minor who has been arrested. It, however, took the police hours to do that, per the lawsuit.

A video of the interrogation also showed Burns actually saying he wanted a lawyer when Det. Andres Ulloa asked him. That was at 1:58 a.m. But Burns wasn’t assigned a lawyer, and the detectives went ahead with the questioning, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also says Det. Jaroslaw Grzeda was the advocate assigned to Burns. He did not also honor Burns’ request for a lawyer and did nothing to prevent the questioning from going ahead, as stated by the suit.

“Grzeda never expresses any concern about interrogating a barely 15-year-old child beginning at 2:00 a.m.,” the suit states. “Grzeda sat quietly in the room and watched idly as Corey’s constitutional rights were being violated.”

During an instance, the suit states that Grzeda “abandons his supposed role as the juvenile’s advocate when he joins in the interrogation [and asks Burns] a series of questions.”

Ulloa is also accused of falsely telling Burns that there was a video linking him to the crime, and his fingerprints were determined to be on a weapon they had retrieved. Another detective, Domenic Cappelluti, also made certain false claims during the interrogation, the suit states. Cappelluti has in the past partaken in false-confession cases, WBEZ reported.

Ulloa managed to get Burns to falsely confess to the crime at 3:29 a.m. “Why didn’t you just tell me that from the beginning?” the detective reportedly asked. 

“I just confessed to something I didn’t do,” Burns replied. 

After more than a year in jail, Burns was released after a judge dismissed the confession and statements from witnesses. Prosecutors, who wanted Burns to be tried as an adult, also moved to withdraw the charges.

Following his release, the teen’s family did not have any intention of seeking damages, their attorney Kevin O’Connor said.

“His mom thought it was a unique case until the Martell Williams case hit the airwaves this year,” O’Connor said. “They were afraid of stirring up trouble.”

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