Convicted arsonist to get another day in court after investigators admitted they gave him alcohol
Six years after a jury convicted a man of arson, a judge is hearing his case again to determine if alcohol played a role in his confession.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Six years after a jury convicted a man of arson, a judge is hearing his case again to determine if alcohol played a role in his confession.
U.B. Thomas III was back in a Louisville court on Tuesday. While serving his sentence, Thomas has been writing letters claiming he was coerced by investigators into a false confession.
Thomas was sentenced to 20 years in prison – based in large part on his confession.
Former Major Henry Ott, chief of investigations for the Louisville Metro Arson Squad at the time, admitted investigators bought a beer for Thomas’ girlfriend to get her to come to the police station and give a statement.
They then gave Thomas the rest of the 40-ounce beer, but Ott said it was not part of any plot to coerce Thomas to confess. Ott has said it was an act of kindness for a man who was likely going to prison.
“I gave the man a beer,” Ott said during a 2009 criminal investigation by Louisville Metro Police. “I shouldn’t have done it. I won’t do it again.”
Ott says he gave Thomas the beer after he confessed.
"The power of suggestion and persuasion leading to a false confession is much greater when a suspect is under the influence,” Krista Dolan, an attorney with the Kentucky Department of Advocacy, wrote in a recent court motion. "Such a confession rises to the level of egregiousness, when the police admitted to providing alcohol to a suspect."
Dolan says it doesn’t matter when the beer was given to Thomas, whom she describes as an addict who would have said anything to get alcohol.
Judge Olu Stevens says he wants to see a resolution to this case, and will hear it again in January.
Thomas, who is serving his sentence in Oldham County is "excited he finally has an attorney and there is some traction," Dolan said. "He’s been saying for seven years that he falsely confessed to something and hasn’t really been able to get anyone to hear him. That’s obviously very frustrating. … Now he is finally going to be heard.”
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