Innocence Project Criticizes NYPD in Baby Nikolaii Murder Case

  • Insider exposed questionable NYPD tactics in the Baby Nikolaii murder case on November 2.
  • A week later, the Innocence Project has filed an amicus brief on behalf of defendant Quincy Pierre.
  • The brief condemns NYPD “coercive tactics” and “deception” in Pierre’s interrogation.

The Innocence Project has filed an amicus brief condemning what they call the NYPD’s “coercive tactics” and “deception” in the Baby Nikolaii murder case.

The brief was filed in support of defendant Quincy Pierre, whose attorneys plan to ask for his pretrial release during a Brooklyn court hearing Wednesday morning in the four-year-old murder case. Insider first exposed questionable police tactics in the case last week.

“Decades of relevant scientific research and expert analyses make plain that the deceptive, coercive tactics used in Mr. Pierre’s interrogation have the power to induce a confession from a suspect, regardless of guilt, especially when the suspect is a young person,” according to the seven-page brief.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the brief. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office has declined to comment on the ongoing prosecution, and the New York City medical examiner’s office has said only that it is standing by its autopsy findings that Nikolaii’s cause of death was blunt force injuries, and manner of death was homicide.

Pierre’s confession was key to his arrest, in September 2019, in the death of Llord Nikolaii Corbin Major, a medically-fragile 11-week-old boy who died while under Pierre’s care in his Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment.

Nikolaii suffered from severe brain damage and cerebral palsy from birth.

Pierre was 19 at the time, and, as the mother’s boyfriend, had been highly involved in the baby’s care since since he was born. He became a suspect after an autopsy revealed, despite a lack of visible external injuries, there were at least 67 fractures in the baby’s rib cage and legs.

Two teams of pathologists have filed reports to the judge on behalf of the defense. The reports say Nikolaii suffered from undiagnosed metabolic bone disease. The rib fractures that likely caused lethal liver damage predated the baby’s death by at least four days, according to the pathologists and medical records reviewed by Insider.

During his interrogation, Pierre told a pair of detectives that he had twisted the baby’s legs and pushed on the baby’s ribs with his fingers some time before waking to find him gasping for air in the bed beside him.

“The Innocence Project urges this Court to issue a new securing order that will allow Mr. Pierre to remain in the community pending the outcome of his trial,” Innocence Project staff attorney Lauren Gottesman wrote in Wednesday’s brief.

The trial “will, in large part, turn on the jury’s assessment of the reliability, or lack thereof, of statements Mr. Pierre provided in response to coercive interrogation tactics that have been proven to place innocent people at significant risk of false confession,” the brief said.

These tactics include detectives “repeatedly lying to Mr. Pierre about the evidence against him,” a tactic they called “so dangerous that nine states across the country have banned its use against young people.”

A pair of Brooklyn detectives “falsely, and repeatedly insisted that they had evidence that the baby sustained his fatal injuries while in Mr. Pierre’s care,” the brief said.

“According to the officer’s lies, the injuries had to have ‘happened within a few hours of [the baby] passing on,'” while he was in Pierre’s care, the brief noted.

“For example, the officers told Mr. Pierre that it was ‘impossible’ he had no knowledge of how the baby was hurt, because ‘the injuries occurred within three hours of his death,'” the brief said.

“It’s science,” the brief noted one of the detectives telling Pierre, citing an interrogation transcript that has also been reviewed by Insider.

“When Mr. Pierre continued to assert his innocence, the officers accused him of lying to them because “the doctor is able to pinpoint the time.”

Quincy Pierre and Breeona Major with Nikolaii, eight days old, at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.

Quincy Pierre and Breeona Major with Nikolaii, eight days old, at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.

Kings County Supreme Court/Insider

Other examples of coercion alleged in the Innocence Project brief are detectives minimizing the potential consequences of any self-incriminating statements, including by telling Pierre that he wasn’t a “bad guy,” that “accidents do happen,” and that “everyone has their moments.”

The interrogation was also “suggestive,” the brief said.

“During an interrogation that culminates in a homicide detective yelling at his teenaged suspect, Mr. Pierre repeatedly acquiesces to or repeats the officers‘ suggestions of how the baby’s injuries may have occurred,” the brief said.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to suggestion, coercion, and being lied to by law enforcement, the brief said, citing multiple studies and examples of false confessions.

“Many adolescents who have falsely confessed have explained that they did so to put an end to the stress of interrogation,” and are more susceptible to such stress and tactics to to begin with due to their age, the brief said.

The Innocence Project is a nonprofit that provides free legal assistance, more typically post-conviction, to incarcerated people, and has won successful exonerations for hundreds of individuals worldwide.

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