The city of Worcester is responding to a lawsuit that claims it violated the civil rights of a young woman during an interrogation by police with what legal observers are calling an unusual argument.
Nga Truong, who spent nearly three years in prison awaiting a trial on charges she murdered her son, was released after a judge threw out her case, calling her confession the result of coercive police tactics.
A day after the sudden death of her toddler, Truong went into the box with no lawyer or adult even though she was only 16 years old. And the police detectives, by their own admission, lied to her.
A judge ruled the confession was the product of deception and implied promises to "a frightened, meek, emotionally compromised teenager who never understood the implications of her statements."
Through her lawyers, Truong filed a civil rights suit last December, alleging malicious prosecution, violation of her Miranda rights and false arrest. Now the city of Worcester is trying to make Truong's trial lawyer, Edward Ryan, the defendant.
"Their complaint is absurd," Ryan said. "This is a desperate attempt to apparently try to cast the blame for themselves onto me. And there is simply no factual basis for it and no legal basis for it."
What the city claims is that Ryan allowed almost two years to pass before he tried to get Truong released by filing a motion to suppress her confession. Thus, "Ryan's breach of his duty was a direct and proximate cause of [Truong's] alleged injuries and damages."
The city's lawyer was unavailable for comment.
Longtime Worcester defense attorney Peter Ettenberg says that in his 40 years he's never seen anything like this.
"Murder cases are very important, the stakes are very high, and both sides want to make sure they do it right," Ettenberg said. "To file a complaint against a lawyer who is only doing his job and did it extraordinarily well, and to try to put some blame on that lawyer who zealously represented his client and was victorious, is clearly unusual."
Yet the city of Worcester claims that if it's found liable for excessive incarceration of Truong, her lawyer will also bear blame. And to Ettenberg and other analysts, who call the counterclaim "bizarre," the city's contention seems an unpersuasive defense from Nga Truong's lawsuit.
This program aired on February 28, 2013.