Public radio host Ira Glass could cost the District $5 million, thanks to a new lawsuit. Revelations made on an episode on Glass’ This American Life have landed the Metropolitan Police Department in hot water, according to a lawsuit filed against the District yesterday.
The case centers on Jim Trainum, a former Metropolitan Police Department detective who’s gone on to criticize how easy it is for police to obtain false confessions.
In February 1994, working a case about a body found near the Anacostia River, Trainum interrogated potential suspect Kim Crafton. After a 17-hour interrogation, Crafton confessed to the murder.
But Trainum soon discovered through the logs at Crafton’s homeless shelter that she couldn’t have committed the crime. She was released from jail 10 months later, but Crafton claims that the charge nevertheless cost her jobs and custody of her children.
Trainum lays out how easy it was for him to accidentally obtain Crafton’s bogus confession in an October 2013 This American Life episode. Crafton even makes an appearance in the episode to explain how damaging the confession was to her life.
“Even though I wasn’t locked up and I was released, I still felt like I was still in jail,” Crafton says in the episode.
Unluckily for Trainum and the District, the episode also provides Crafton, who had never heard of Trainum’s regrets about her case before she was interviewed by This American Life nearly 20 years later, with ammunition to sue. In a lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, Crafton asks for $5 million from Trainum and the city for false imprisonment, coercing her confession, and other counts.
Crafton’s lawsuit blames her confession in part on Trainum’s use of the Reid technique, an interrogation method that has been criticized for producing false confessions. An MPD official not authorized to speak about pending lawsuits tells LL that MPD detectives are no longer trained in that interrogation style.
Trainum, MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump, and Office of the Attorney General spokesman Ted Gest all declined to comment on the lawsuit. But their case isn’t helped by the fact that Trainum appeared on This American Life admitting that a recording of the confessions shows him accidentally giving Crafton the information she shaped into her confession.
“It is beyond belief,” Loyd Hopkins, Crafton’s attorney, writes in an email to LL. “I was floored when I heard it. No exaggeration.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery