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October 03, 2011 05:45 PM

Attorney: SF Police Coerced Fisher's Confession

Sioux Falls, SD


He was arrested on Thanksgiving Day 2008 for killing his girlfriend's 16-month-old son. Now, an attorney for 29-year-old Christopher Brian Fisher says the six-hour interrogation and ultimate confession that followed was coerced by police.

During the first day of the South Dakota Supreme Court's October term, the justices heard from Fisher's attorneys, who are appealing his manslaughter conviction.

Fisher’s attorney says Sioux Falls Police detectives were determined on getting him to confess to the killing nearly three years ago.

"He was set up from the moment he went into there," Fisher's attorney, Nicole Laughlin from the Minnehaha Public Defender’s Office, said.

Following Fisher's arrest, his attorney says Sioux Falls Police Detective Tim Bakke badgered Fisher during a six-hour interrogation until he ultimately confessed. An interrogation she said crossed the line even though he was read his Miranda rights twice.

"The interrogation by Detective Bakke was so coercive that it over born Brian's free will to knowingly and intelligently waive his rights," Laughlin said.

The questioning ended when Bakke gave Fisher a doll so he could demonstrate how he shook the toddler.

"Finally, Detective Bakke got what he wanted,” Laughlin told the justices. “He got Brian to take that doll. Brian didn't say, 'I did it; I did it.'  Bakke said, 'You did it,' and Brian agreed with Detective Bakke's words. Brian took that doll and he shook it like this and even as he's saying what happened, it's not making sense," Laughlin said.

"The length of time, while it's fairly long, the defendant never asked for an attorney, never asked for the questioning to stop," Assistant Attorney General Matt Roby said.

Roby claims that Fisher knew what he was doing during the interview and gave a clear confession.

"The defendant at the end gave a detailed narrative of what he had done to this child. Words were not put into his mouth. He was able to continually manufacture stories throughout the interview, and then eventually gave a detailed narrative of what happened," Roby said.

The attorney for Fisher is also appealing this case because she says a doctor who testified during the trial was never qualified to testify about the cause of death.

The doctor said the cause of death was 'abusive' head trauma. Fisher's attorney says the doctor was simply a pediatrician and not a forensic pathologist and wasn’t qualified to testify about the cause of death.

However, attorneys for the state say the doctor had worked on 500 child abuse cases and was qualified.

The justices will make a determination on this case at a later date.

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