i posted a couple of days ago about the 8-year-old boy in arizona who is being charged with the premeditated murder of his father and another man. the case is generating plenty of press and discussion, but few people seem to be acknowledging that we saw a somewhat similar case in chicago a decade ago.

does anyone remember the case of ryan harris? the defendants in that case were two 7- and 8-year-old chicago boys. the police attained confessions from these two young boys for the muder of 11-year-old ryan harris who was killed while riding her bike in their neighborhood. the charges against the boys were finally dropped when semen was found in the victim’s underpants, and prosecutors were forced to acknowledge that it was unlikely boys so young could produce semen. so how much were those confessions really worth?

at the time, there were a lot of questions about the chicago boys’ confessions and how they were interrogated by police. while the police department denied misconduct or any wrongdoing, seven years later, the city of chicago settled wrongful arrest suits with the 7-year-old defendant for $2 million dollars, and with the 8-year-old defendant for $6.2 million.

it’s hard to imagine how much psychological damage such wrongful arrests and the ensuing publicity might cause. arizona police and prosecutors would be wise to think about the chicago case before placing too much weight on the confession of an 8-year-old child, attained by two female police officers without a parent or legal representative in the room.