Apr 23, 2001
Charges of murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery brought six months ago against 17-year old John Kaled and 19-year old Frank Kuecken have just been dropped in the town of New Baltimore, Michigan. They had been held in jail awaiting trial ever since one "confessed" to murdering 16-year-old Justin Mello during a robbery of the pizza shop where they all worked. The other "confessed" to driving the get-away car.
There were always problems with the confessions. The two had been held by police for many hours without being allowed to contact anyone. They had not had a lawyer. Afterwards, they said they had been harassed and kept without sleep by the police. Both said they had signed confessions just to get the police to stop. No physical evidence or witnesses tied the two to the murder. But the police and Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga denied that false confessions had been forced from the young men.
Kaled and Kuecken might have been convicted of murder and spent decades in jail. But, this month two other former employees of the pizza shop were arrested in Kentucky after a crime spree involving a number of murders. And one of the two confessed to robbing a gun store last year. And one of the guns from this robbery had been used to kill Mello and at least one other person WHILE Kaled and Kuecken sat in jail. The prosecutor continued to insist that the right young men were in jail for Mello's murder because he had confessions.
Obviously, if Marlinga had let them out, he would have been admitting that the police forced false confessions from them. Ultimately, as the evidence mounted up, he was forced to release them. But even then he defended police "procedures."
Kaled and Kuecken are "lucky," if you call it "lucky" to have wasted a half year of your life in jail accused of murder.
There are many others in a similar situation –but not so lucky. They spend their whole lives in jail.