Law & Order: Grade School
Well, this is certainly out of the ordinary:
The incident started when a Delaware State Police trooper, who was on assignment as a school resource officer in the Cape Henlopen School District, questioned the third-grader and a fifth-grader while investigating the theft of $1.
According to court papers, the questioning was so intense, complete with threats of the children being sent to a juvenile facility for lying, that the 8-year-old — who was not a suspect — burst into tears. His parents pulled him out of school because of the January 2008 incident and filed a lawsuit in January 2010 charging the officer violated the child’s rights.
While walking the boy from the office to a room where AB was being questioned, the trooper told the boy he knew he didn’t commit the theft, according to court documents.
“You’re not in any trouble. I just need you to be brave and come in here,” Pritchett told the student, according to court papers. “When I tell you the story of what’s happened and I look at you, you just say ‘no you didn’t do it.’ ”
But once inside the room, the child said Pritchett “used a mean voice and told him 11 or 12 times that Pritchett had the authority to arrest and place him in jail if he didn’t tell the truth.”
The trooper also told the students that bad children were “sent to the Stevenson House,” where “people are mean and children are treated like criminals” and that their siblings would be upset and would not be able to see them.
The Stevenson House is a state-operated juvenile detention center in Milford.
The 8-year-old then started to cry, prompting Pritchett to turn to AB and say, “This is crazy now. Look at him,” according to court papers. The incident prompted AB — the fifth-grader — to confess.
What would have come next if that didn’t work? Waterboarding? Not surprisingly, there was a lawsuit filed by the parents of the third-grader. Initially that suit was dismissed at the trial Court level but has since been revived by he Delaware Supreme Court.