Citing a new report diagnosing 21 year-old Kosgar Lado with paranoid schizophrenia, Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III announced today that he was dropping the charge of lying to police against Lado. Lado was charged after giving a false confession when he was brought in by police for questioning about the murder of Anthony Kye in June, 2013. You can read about the case in our previous post here.
Lado had already been diagnosed with schizophrenia twice, according to media reports, but for some reason Dunnings didn’t get the report from a private mental health facility diagnosing Lado with paranoid schizophrenia until last night. At today’s press conference, Dunnings said he had no confirmation of Lado’s psychiatric status until this week and so could not drop the charges sooner. Dunnings also said he received information from a local social services organization about Lado’s mental state at the time of the confession which would make it difficult for Dunnings to prove at trial that Lado’s statements were “knowingly and intentionally” made.
Upon news of Dunnings’ announcement, one local journalist, Meegan Holland, came to the prosecutor’s defense, characterizing the series of events that led to Lado’s 9 month ordeal as “actually justice playing out“:
The system appropriately advocated for Kye’s family by trying to get to the truth and by sending a message that you can’t give false information to police without consequences. The Kye family has suffered because of Lado’s confession, even if it was innocently borne out of his mental illness.
So then the question became: Did Lado know right from wrong at the time of his confession? If he did, he deserved to be charged.
But he’s not being charged.
This argument, though logical, overlooks the important question raised by the Lansing State Journal – why would anyone confess to a murder that they didn’t commit? The National Registry of Exonerations details countless cases of wrongful conviction where a defendant was both deemed competent to stand trial and falsely confessed to a serious crime. Does Holland suggest that upon exoneration, these men and women should then be charged with lying to police?
Dunning’s decision to charge Lado with a crime in this instance was clearly within the bounds of his discretion, but it is deeply troubling. Such an approach requires law enforcement to ignore the reasons why people – often young and mentally ill like Lado – falsely confess to serious crimes. If Dunnings really was concerned that Lado might have just been a terrible person trying to stymie a police investigation in a murder case, he ought to have investigated that before charging Lado and drawing him into a legal quagmire that led to a decline in his already ailing mental health.
Holland is right that justice still needs to be done for the Kye family, but it’s a bit rich to suggest that the justice system “worked” for Kosgar Lado.