The Confession Tapes (2017) s01e07 Episode Script

Down River

1 [faint click, whirring] Whew.
[man] Psychologically, what happened when you came here is that you had a gun to your head.
[man] But you made probably one of the worst mistakes a human being can make.
[man] You see, how does the system punish you? Because you're gonna punish yourself a lifetime.
And that's why I think you're more a victim than perhaps your own children.
Because, see, their fate is sealed in time.
For some reason, your fate has been left in the air.
[man] The test is about to begin.
[man] The Lawrence DeLisle story is really tragic.
And it's also a mystery.
It doesn't make a lot of sense that a father who has no criminal record would suddenly drive his car into the river with his family.
It was really speeding.
I mean, it was roaring.
And the car crashed through the barricades and went in the river.
The whole thing was just "whoom-bam.
" [camera shutter clicks] [man] It's not a question of whether he was at the scene.
Everybody knows he was at the scene.
It's just a question of, "What is his intent?" It was a blockbuster story.
The terrible incident that happened here has put a harsh spotlight on this small Downriver community.
[man] The media kept on showing the crane lifting this car out of the water.
[man 2] The car is essentially the murder weapon, so we have to find out everything we can about it.
[man 3] It strains anybody's sense of justice to think, "Oh, that's just an accident.
" Especially when the mother and father escape.
[man] From the standpoint of being a reporter, we affected what happened in this case.
See, as a human being you try to think of a logical reason for an illogical act.
You're not equipped.
[Palmatier] I've had the pleasure of testing some of the top brain scientists in the world.
I test some very, very intelligent people.
They can't think their way through the test.
[Palmatier] Now, so that we're both here for the same reason, what is your understanding of what the test is supposed to be about? Well, I don't know exactly what you mean by that question.
The test, as far as I know, is to find out if I'm telling the truth.
Right? [Palmatier] About what? -I don't know, the accident, I guess.
-[Palmatier] Okay.
-What it is, is that on August the 3rd -Right.
you had an accident where your car left the roadway and went into the Detroit River.
And I want to know if, in fact, it was an accident or if it was a purposeful act.
-It's that simple.
So, what I need to have you do is go through for me everything you remember happening.
You're talking August 3rd.
Temperature that day was probably close to 90.
When you're lonely [DeLisle] I'd been working all day.
I was a service manager but I specialized, just like my father, in brakes and front end.
We lived in Lincoln Park, the suburb outside of Detroit.
I met Sue about six months prior to my 18th birthday.
We had four very beautiful children.
Emily Suzanne, our fourth, was christened in 1989.
They were everything to me.
I mean, my son so good at baseball.
Just remember [DeLisle] This particular night we went shopping for the girls' beds.
And everyone was just in such a good mood that we decided we were gonna go get some ice cream.
And heartbreak [DeLisle] Bob-Jo's, they sell the best custard ice cream in all Downriver.
We had some ice cream.
My legs had been bothering me for the last few hours, so I took my shoes off.
When we left, my daughter asked my wife and I, "Can we go down and see the boats again, like we did the night before?" So we drove to the end of the street.
We stopped there, I'm thinking, "God, let a boat come by.
" No boat came by.
Meanwhile, our youngest is starting to teethe.
So we turned around and my wife said, "Stop in this store.
" When we left, I misjudged my turn when I came out.
A leg cramp happened.
My foot stomped down on the gas.
I reached down, pulled my foot off.
The car did not slow down.
Just then, my wife reached over, grabbed the steering wheel, started yanking hard to the right.
Well, I was trying to get control of the vehicle to stop it, but we had ran out of street, and we were airborne from that point.
[crickets chirping] [man] Being the senior detective, I was there within five minutes.
That was the start of sort of a nightmare.
[Galeski] It ended up approximately 90 feet south down the river because we have a strong current.
They had big, huge lights that, you know, tried to light up the scene.
And the taillights were still visible underneath the water.
[DeLisle] The next thing I know, I'm treading water, trying to shake off the cobwebs.
When I looked around to find where the car was only the tail end of it was sticking up, straight up out of the water.
And before I could yell for help, it rolled under the water, and I can't swim.
Eventually, I heard my wife cry out, and it was when I heard her voice that I was able to reach out because I felt there might be hope now.
The first baby that came out was handed to me, which I handed to the rescue crew.
And they were brought up at various times, one at a time.
[siren wails] [faint radio chatter] [DeLisle] I remember being in the hospital, looking at the lights above me as they were wheeling me down the hallway.
I remember them talking about they found the children.
And it ended up that they had passed away in the exact opposite order that they were, uh, born in.
I remember the arresting officer, Galeski, came up.
He was asking questions.
[Galeski] Are you-- are you in a frame of mind, or are you willing to tell us what happened? [DeLisle] I turned down Eureka.
My leg was killing me.
My left foot was crossed over, and I was trying to reach down to get whatever was stuck unstuck.
[Galeski] What do you mean "stuck"? What was stuck? [DeLisle] I don't know.
Maybe my shoes or something.
I don't know.
-[Galeski] You had your shoes off? -My shoes were off.
[DeLisle] Something was stuck in the gas pedal.
At that time, he told me that he had a leg cramp and that's what caused him to push down on the gas pedal, and, subsequently, he didn't know where he was.
A few days later, he told me that the accelerator stuck.
And that set off some bells for me because now that's the second story he told me.
[man] You know, that was the initial unbelievable thing about this case.
How can you have a cramp in your leg and drive your car into the river? That doesn't make any sense at all.
"Why, I'd do this and I'd do that, and I'd make sure no cramp would cause me to drive my car into the river.
" That seemed like he was making something up to cover intentionally killing his children.
And that's what made the media and the police suspicious from the beginning.
[Eaman] I'm starting to relive the experience that this case was, and it's not a happy memory.
[Eaman] Very strange to be back here.
I'm not sure I ever actually came down to the end and looked in the water, 'cause I wasn't really interested in getting close to the water where his four kids had died, so I just came down the street, and I let my investigator, I believe, take the pictures and interview the witnesses.
But I came and looked.
I remember that.
And then I got to see the apartment building where, at least one of the witnesses was.
[reporter] Aside from Lawrence and Suzanne DeLisle, Beverly Lake may be the best witness as to what happened.
She had a bird's-eye view.
Beverly lives up there, in the corner apartment on the top floor of the Biddle House.
Tonight, in her first local TV interview, she tells what she saw that night and how it changed her life.
It was just a nightmare.
It's something you'd never forget.
[Lake] I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Or maybe I was in the right place at the right time.
My husband called me and the guys next door the "Snoop Sisters.
" He said, "You know, one of these days, you're gonna see a murder.
" [Lake] I was sitting on the 11th floor balcony.
I think the time was about 9:20.
We heard this horrible roar, and the car crashed through the barricades and went in the river.
The whole thing was just "whoom-bam.
" You knew there was no stopping.
You knew there was no way out.
This was a one-way trip.
You knew it.
[reporter] Shock, anger, disgust.
All of those emotions are swirling through the city of Wyandotte today, indeed, throughout the Metropolitan area.
This is a story that people simply cannot understand a darkness that people cannot fathom.
[Eaman] Because of the sensational nature of the case, the news media was staking out his house.
They were attempting to interview him.
They finally got an interview.
[camera shutters clicking] [DeLisle] That interview haunted me for a long time.
Before we came out, a family member gave me a Valium.
I actually took two of 'em.
I was barely cognizant of my surroundings.
I was grabbing at the wheel.
I was grabbing at the ignition.
I was grabbing at the gear shift.
I-- if I touched any one part of those, I don't know.
[DeLisle] It happened so fast.
My leg, I thought, curled under, and I thought my left leg went over.
So I don't know if my right leg was on the gas pedal.
I thought it was by the seat 'cause I was trying to rub it.
Left foot kicked over.
[Eaman] Larry and Suzanne didn't express any emotion or feeling, which people thought was really weird.
[DeLisle] I come from a family that tries to greet everybody with a smile, even when we're sad.
It's just the way our family is.
We keep things to ourselves.
You weren't there for the nights of crying.
You weren't there for the days and weeks that my wife and I had grieved for our children.
[Eaman] How could you not be numb with all of that? How could the news be so insensitive as to push these people and not just leave 'em alone? It's easier to accept that people are evil and they killed the children than it is to say, "That's a tragic accident.
" [Palmatier] Have you told the complete truth about why your car went in the river? The Wyandotte police selected Palmatier to do the polygraph because of his reputation of extracting confessions from people.
[Eaman] His techniques were well-known.
[Palmatier] When I was a new police officer, they said, "You have to take a polygraph test.
" I said, "What?" The examiner said, "I want you to sit there, and I want you to relax as much as possible.
" Well, I failed the polygraph.
And he showed me the polygraph charts, and there was almost nothing there.
I said, "You told me to relax.
" I said, "I've been into Zen Buddhism.
I've been into the martial arts.
" I said, "I've practiced under the masters in Okinawa.
" I said, "You want me to relax? It's a form of meditation.
I can do that.
" He said, "Don't do it.
" He said, "Just talk to me.
" And I did fine on the polygraph test.
But that polygraph test just how do it know? So I decided that that's what I was going to do as a police officer.
My job is to find out what's true.
And in Mr.
DeLisle's case, he certainly didn't know what a truthful person who really has suffered that kind of trauma behaves like.
There was never any anger.
There was never any real emotional response.
We call it a "very flat affect.
" [Palmatier] Worst thing that ever happened to you emotionally? Emotionally? Just happened, you know? I still feel as if my kids are at home waiting there, you know? And it I walk in and there's nobody there, and I know that they're coming.
[Palmatier] The police just didn't know what was true.
The fact that the car took a perfect line down Eureka Road, headed for the Detroit River, just was very difficult to explain.
I brought my leg like this, real quick.
And I guess I kicked a shoe off.
I don't know if it must have got jammed in there or what.
The car started accelerating really quick.
And my wife says, "Stop.
" You know? I'm saying, "I can't," you know? "It's-- something's stuck.
" I'm reaching over, and I took my foot and started kicking over at the brake pedal, but my foot kept slipping off.
[Palmatier] Do you think it was your left foot on the gas, or was there a tennis shoe wedged in there? I think my left foot was on it afterwards.
Originally, it might have been.
It had to have been.
[Palmatier] Think about where the accelerator is and the brake.
Try to step on the gas with your left foot.
It's not an easy task.
[woman] What if the accelerator was stuck? Well, see, that's the kind of "what if" that Mr.
Eaman as an attorney would love to present.
[motor rumbling] [camera shutter clicks] [Eaman] The first thing a good detective should have done is gone out and checked the car out to see if there was something wrong with the car.
When they pulled the car out of the river, the news cameras captured all of that.
My mechanic, Jim Colquell, examined the car, and he found several defects.
One was a kink in the accelerator cable that would cause the cable to stick.
Another was the throttle plates.
He could hear them scraping on the inside of the carburetor.
And the engine mount was broken.
And when the engine mount is broken, the engine will tilt.
And when it tilts, it pulls the accelerator cable, and that can cause the accelerator cable to stick, too.
So, before the car was ever tested, Jim Colquell identified these defects in the car that would cause sudden and rapid uncontrolled acceleration.
[tires screech] [Eaman] They went to test the car.
And this car had been at the bottom of the river.
They got it started.
[reporter] At least 14 times, investigators accelerated and slammed the brakes [tires screech] over a 396-foot course-- the exact distance the wagon traveled on this street, before slamming through the barrier into the river.
All of a sudden, the accelerator stuck on the car.
The engine was racing out of control.
And I could still see these guys running around the car.
"What's happening?" They put the hood up.
They point to the-- and then he turns the key off.
And it stopped accelerating.
And then, they start the car up again, and the accelerator is not sticking, so they drive it the length of the test track they were on and hit the brakes to see if the brakes worked, and that's the end of the test.
I mean, how more obvious could it be? That era of a Ford, I would be very suspect.
Did I work on Larry's car? No.
Did I work on one like it? Yes.
My primary business is cars and light trucks.
I started here in '76, so I obviously saw some '78s.
That model year vehicle had norm problems with, like, broken motor mounts and sticking gas pedals.
After they fished it out of the water, the car should have been really closely inspected.
I don't think it was.
[bangs] Here's a '76 Ford involved in a sudden acceleration accident.
'77 Ford with a sticking accelerator.
'77 Ford, pushed down on the gas to pass the car, accelerated out of control.
A '75 Mercury station wagon.
Car accelerated unexpectedly.
Worn motor mounts caused this car to accelerate.
It goes on and on.
And, of course, witnesses did hear the engine still racing when the car was airborne, which means something is stuck.
I think, to Galeski, that would mean he kept his foot on the gas, but I think it means something is stuck.
[Tim DeLisle] Larry was a mechanic.
His dad was a mechanic.
Anybody that's been a mechanic very long has probably suffered a runaway or a broken motor mount, or an erratic vehicle operation.
And since we know that much about cars, we would have just popped the gear shift into neutral and turned the key off.
Maybe he panicked.
I don't know.
Maybe the cramp was distracting him so bad that he couldn't think to do that.
So that's the only part of the whole tragedy that I don't understand.
That car was really a point of angst because this is where-- if there was any genuine emotion, it was about the car.
Larry's dad suicided.
Shot himself in the car that Larry was driving when he went in the river.
None of us ever understood why they kept that car.
I understand why he would wanna keep it, because it was transportation.
But, see, there's some things you do for your mental health that you just do it because it's a smart thing to do.
And when you open the door, there's a piece of the car underneath it.
-You know, metal.
-[woman] Yeah.
That was filled with caked blood.
[Galeski] And even after we pulled the car out of the river, the blood was still visible.
It never washed away.
[Lake] There was a movie that came out about that time, and it was a horror movie.
And the name of the movie was Christine.
And Christine was a car, and every person who owned that car died.
So I, facetiously or jokingly, even though it probably wasn't funny, called that car "Christine.
" Mm-hmm.
No, the only "Christine" was at the wheel.
[Palmatier] I think that when people get involved in these types of behaviors they have a real need to have someone understand why.
And in Mr.
DeLisle's case, even though I told him, I think, at least, two or three times that he should get up and leave if my opinion was in error he continued to sit and listen.
[Palmatier] And, Larry, unfortunately-- and it's not your fault you had some bad models.
Not that the people were bad, but their ultimate decisions were bad, like your father.
The decision he made on how to finally rectify-- I was not as close to my father-- [Palmatier] Whether you were or not it still gives you an inappropriate model of how to deal with things when they finally get to be too much.
[DeLisle] It was very hypnotic, very hard to not listen to him.
He kept trying to say, "You're like father, like son.
" You know? "He committed suicide.
You're trying to commit suicide.
" It was as if he was trying to brainwash me through his words.
[Palmatier] I don't know why, Larry but it seems that I've been given a gift to look much deeper into people than anyone ever thought it was possible to do.
What are you trying to say? [Palmatier] Looking at the charts, everything that's going on, there was something else going-- it wasn't, as you stated that it was.
So what you're telling me, basically, is I'm a schizo? -[Palmatier] I don't know.
-I did it on purpose.
[Palmatier] When we say something's done "on purpose," does that mean that there's pre-planning? [Eaman] The police were searching for a theory to support their suspicion that he did this on purpose.
[Palmatier] I won't bring myself to believe I guess I don't want to, that you planned it.
I guess it's possible, but I don't wanna believe that.
-[DeLisle] I'm no murderer.
-I know you're not.
[DeLisle] You know? He would have loved for me to say, "This is what happened, isn't it?" But then I'm putting words into his mouth.
That's not fair.
[Palmatier] It happened on an emotional level, not an intellectual level, and you made a mistake.
And now, you're left with, "If I tell the truth, my life's gonna be ruined.
" My life's already ruined.
My kids are gone.
I have to start over.
[man] Is Larry DeLisle criminally responsible for what happened? One of the things that, I think, makes this case difficult is his wife is the lone surviving witness.
His wife does not blame him for what happened.
She supports his version of events.
That adds another layer of sort of complexity to this case.
What woman would forgive their husband intentionally murdering their children? I covered that area for more than a year for The Detroit News.
When people think of Detroit Downriver basically exemplifies the typical auto worker.
There's no question that Larry DeLisle is morally responsible for the death of his children on some level, but it's hard to understand the depth of the community hostility towards this couple.
It horrifies me.
It just horrifies me.
There were many people that turned on Suzanne DeLisle and thought she was possibly complicit in this whole thing.
I've never heard her one time cry about those children.
And I have two of my own, and I know how I feel like that.
All she's done is cried about that husband.
I called her a bitch.
[reporter] She's not charged with anything.
Why are you-- ? No, 'cause I feel she's in with it.
She had something to do with it.
[man] To be honest with you, my very first meeting with Mrs.
DeLisle, I thought it would be something to the effect of, "I can't believe what my husband tried to do to me and what he did to my kids.
" Well, there's a good witness.
But it wasn't that.
So I had to look at what the other evidence would show.
By the time I got the case, I was probably seven years into the prosecutor's office.
So I felt like I was a veteran.
Dan was a veteran.
Dan had been around a really long time.
I don't know if I told you I did 589 death-related investigations in my 38 years.
Some of the local press likened him to Clint Eastwood's character, "Dirty Harry.
" [Galeski] Back then, I resembled him a little bit.
I smoked cigars.
They would refer to me as "Dirty Dan.
" I never caught that resemblance, no offense to Dan, but Dan kinda had that demeanor.
No-nonsense, driven.
That's the last car we pulled up.
The body was down there 20-some years.
And this is our golf course.
If you go to the dead end, that's where the accident happened.
[woman] Do you call it an "accident" or a crime? [Galeski] No, it's a crime.
[woman] Now, Frank has said that the accelerator did stick.
Do you want me to-- do you want me to comment on that? -[woman] Yeah.
-Maybe he's lying.
[Galeski] He went out probably 50, 75 feet.
That's where they found the car.
When he hit, it went like that, according to the witnesses, okay? And then, when the car hit the water, the windshield blew out.
And that's how Mrs.
and Mr.
DeLisle got out, through the windshield.
All right, come on.
Let's go here.
[Galeski] And I was probably right about here when they handed me the first baby, you know? As the kids come up, they were limp.
We got a report immediately from the hospital that they're-- they worked on 'em for hours.
You know, tried to get 'em breathing.
[Eaman] Galeski decided he was gonna "get" Larry.
He was gonna get him for this homicide, that he must have done it on purpose 'cause he had a screw loose.
[Mitzelfeld] What level of proof do we need to believe that he intended to do this? One of the pieces of evidence was that he was there the night before.
[Simowski] My narrative was, "Had he been to the area? Was he familiar with the area?" One witness, I remember, her first name was Beverly.
[Galeski] She was excellent.
She was excellent.
Shen was very observant and furnished us information I never expected.
But it was it was awesome.
It was the testimony for premeditation because of the "three runs.
" The first night, we were just sitting out there, and my father, he noted that car and he said, "I wonder what they're up to.
" We looked, and it was just a family.
And then they turned around and they left.
We didn't think anything more of it.
[engine rumbles] [Lake] The second night, my father said, "Look, it's that car again.
" This time, the car came down to the river.
There was a blockade there, and he sat there a while and then exited.
And about 20 minutes later, then it was like the death run.
I'm glad I was there.
I was meant to be there.
He would have gotten away with murder.
[man] At this point, Larry DeLisle is sitting there going, "I'm going to jail for the rest of my life.
" And here's his savior, Palmatier.
"All you have to do is say what I want you to say.
I'll make life easier for you.
" And, of course, DeLisle bought into that.
[Abramsky] I recognized the technique that Detective Palmatier used.
I mean, he broke all the ethical rules.
The steps were that you could do all kinds of manipulation, suggestion, wear someone down because an innocent man would never confess to a crime he never committed.
They want to say that what I'm doing, I'm not testing memory.
Well, that's just malarkey.
Does it work? I know, absolutely.
Does it work with a high degree of accuracy? Absolutely.
I've been able to pull rabbits out of the hat so many times that it's not even funny.
[Palmatier] You're not telling the truth about what happened.
Are you a father who's been so traumatized by a mistake, or are you just a liar? Someone who purposefully did something and is trying to cover it up? The police and the prosecutors' theory kept changing in the case.
If you remember, he says the baby was in the back seat crying and he had just had a hard day at work.
[Palmatier] I don't know if it was the baby crying so loud, and I don't know why the Lord empowered children with the ability to cry at the pitch and frequency that they are able to.
But, you know, you could-- I threatened my own daughter to tie her in a garbage bag and leave her in the closet for a while.
You know, when she was small.
Just, "Damn, kid, shut up!" And I'd have to leave.
Kids are making a lot of noise, you just turn the radio up.
You know? Are you saying I flipped? [Palmatier] I am saying that something happened with you.
[Eaman] Just say some other part of you did it, or you snapped, and then it's okay if you say it that way.
That's what they try to do.
[DeLisle] How can you say "snapped"? They're trying to say "snapped" because the baby was screaming.
Four children.
All four of them teethed.
I've changed dirty diapers, bad rashes All of those things come with being a parent.
[Palmatier] It took a special kind of courage for you to do what you did and to keep the whole family together.
[DeLisle] I can't believe that somewhere deep inside of me, there is a demon that would do that on purpose.
[Palmatier] That is extremely astute on your part.
"Astute"? [Palmatier] Very perceptive.
Very intelligent that you recognize that because [DeLisle] I'm going by what you're saying.
Larry, within each of us, there's a demon.
And it's when we deny it exists that it will come up behind us.
It's the fool that won't acknowledge its existence.
[Abramsky] See, all of that goes toward helping someone come to terms with the fact they've done something terrible.
But it really isn't their fault.
"It's the demon inside of me.
It's not really my fault.
" That kind of thing.
So there's a psychological out in something like this.
If something snapped, I wanna know about it.
[Palmatier] You do.
And what it is see, we've already come far.
Because, before, you didn't wanna know.
[Abramsky] All you want is a single statement out of someone.
That's all they have to say, is one thing.
And then it's too late.
[Eaman] Larry was no match for Palmatier.
He had a tenth-grade education.
So Larry resisted for a long time.
But everybody's got a breaking point.
[Palmatier] Were you just trying to scare your wife? But then you see the water coming up and panicked couldn't take your foot off? I didn't wanna hurt her.
I didn't wanna hurt the kids.
I did.
I have to pay for that for the rest of my life, inside.
Stupid mistake.
Like you said, stupid mistake.
That's another sign of false confessions.
When people just parrot what the examiner is saying.
[Eaman] When I watched the videotape, where they were planting ideas in his mind and trying to get him to agree with their theories of the case, and I saw him slip away as they were talking to him.
His body position changed, his responses changed.
You could see they were wearing him down slowly.
If you look at a lot of his behavior during that entire tape, even when I left the room and he pulled the chair out, put his feet in there, he closes his eyes and he sits back.
And that's where his attorney wants to say that he had a nervous breakdown.
I say that attorney has never seen a for-real nervous breakdown.
[Palmatier] I'll tell you what, Larry.
You've come this far with me.
[speaking faintly] I could leave the room.
[Palmatier] I know that.
It's the reason that people who don't tell the truth stay here.
That's how I knew you weren't telling the truth for sure back a long time ago.
[Eaman] Nobody walks out of those rooms.
I've had many cases where the police have testified, "He was free to go at any time he wanted to.
He could have got up and walked out.
" I've never seen anybody who "got up and walked out" of an interrogation room.
They don't really believe they can do that, so they stay there and keep talking.
[Palmatier] Will you try to talk to the detectives? [Eaman] I started watching it late at night.
I thought I'd watch a couple hours before I went to bed.
I ended up watching the entire interrogation without stopping, till about three o'clock in the morning.
And then, later, when I consulted with a psychologist, he said, "Well, of course.
He was using hypnotic techniques.
And you were being hypnotized as you were listening to the rhythm of his voice.
" [Palmatier] Mr.
Eaman says, "I watched.
I watched that video and I was hypnotized.
" Well, my comeback to that is, "Well, then, why the hell didn't you confess to the murder?" I have nothing to do with hypnosis.
He just didn't like what he saw.
[Galeski] John told me that you wanted me to come and talk to you.
Something you wanna tell me? [speaking faintly] No.
I'm just tired.
[Galeski] As far as what happened the night of the accident.
It was a terrible mistake.
I panicked.
[whispers] It was stupid.
[Galeski] Did you know what you were doing when you were driving down the street and accelerating? At first.
What were you thinking at first? That I wanted to get real close and slam on the brakes.
-You know? -You didn't want anyone to drown? No.
I think about a hundred feet before I tried to stop.
I couldn't I couldn't get my foot up, and I just I froze.
[Galeski] But you, intentionally, when you took off, -you stepped on the accelerator.
[Galeski] You steered towards the river.
You had intentions to go in that river, didn't you? [speaking faintly] No.
I might as well have been.
[DeLisle] He tried to instill the guilt that wasn't there but only grew because of the way he pursued it.
Eventually, I was just out of it, between the accident flashing in my head and-- you just want it to end, so you say whatever he wants just to make it end.
They took a man who just lost all four of his children and grilled him for hours, trying to convince him he did it on purpose.
Eventually got him to say what happened, and then he broke.
People like me should be locked up forever, I guess.
[faint whirring] [Mitzelfeld] Shortly after Larry DeLisle was interviewed by the police for something, like, ten hours he was arrested, and the police held a news conference, and the police chief said He used the term, "confessed.
" "Larry DeLisle has confessed.
" [Simowski] The press was all over this, and, you know, that's always the caution but we introduced that statement as evidence.
Then, subsequent to that, there were motions by the defense to suppress his statement.
[Eaman] You know, as a lawyer, your job is to keep out of evidence something that's false, something that's illegal, something that's a violation of the Constitution.
And if I had not filed a motion to suppress that confession, I would be negligent as a lawyer.
[man] From my perspective, you can see what occurred when you get to look at a videotape.
And it's the only case in my career that I remember ever having a videotape to look at with respect to a statement.
[Colombo] I wish the police did it all the time.
After viewing that video, which was approximately eight or eight-and-a-half hours long, I felt that his mental state and the length of the interrogation and watching him completely wear down and become totally exhausted led me to the conclusion that, in fact, that was an involuntary statement.
[Eaman] But the media immediately went in court, filed motions to get all that evidence, get it released to them, so they could publish it.
They fought to get that even though the judge had said it's not admissible at trial.
In this entire courtroom, Your Honor, I'm the only one who's suggesting that my client has a right to a fair trial.
They're just taking a substantial risk.
[reporter] The risk on Mr.
DeLisle's future and fate, you mean? That's right, and a risk that he will never get a fair trial.
[news anchor] Channel 7's Ken Ford has been watching and listening to the tapes, quite frankly, all day long, which a court order prevents us from replaying to you, directly, at least.
Ken joins us now with more in this live action-cam report.
Ken? Well, Rich, it's been an unbelievable day, listening and watching those tapes.
I can tell you that it was brutal psychological testing.
It had DeLisle questioning his own sanity over and over on these tapes, but it did achieve what the police were after, and that, of course, was a confession.
[Mitzelfeld] We used some of the exact words that Larry DeLisle had used.
[Mitzelfeld] There's things in there that certainly are problematic.
There are inculpating statements in that.
But there are a lot of things that don't seem like a confession, and when you take it as a whole, it was not what I would have sort of suspected was a confession.
When you think about it, it's kinda ridiculous, that you would throw out a confession, but you'd allow the public to know what was in that statement, knowing that some of those people are gonna be on the jury.
I'm really sorry it happened, but I think he should get what he's got coming.
I can't see leaving them babies in there.
He could have got one, anyway.
Drop him out in the lake with the same crane that pulled the station wagon out of the lake.
Drop him right back in.
If there ever was a case where venue ought to have been changed, this was it.
[Colombo] The five jurors, as I recall, that ended up on the jury and who knew there had been a statement made by Mr.
DeLisle, also indicated that they could set that knowledge aside and decide this case based upon the evidence.
How can you put that out of your mind? I think that sometimes the law engages in fiction.
[Colombo] This would be a horrific case, no matter where it was heard.
I felt that it was not necessary to change venue in this case.
[Eaman] This was called the "media courtroom" because they could put the media behind the glass.
[reporter] I'm talking to you from the press room above the courtroom of Judge Robert Colombo Jr.
As you can see behind me, the room is virtually empty right now.
The jurors are out.
As I watched the jury through the trial, it was clear they knew that the media was right behind that glass up there.
[news anchor] Quick question, Ken.
Do members of the jury get to watch and listen to videotape replays of the testimony like everybody at home just did? Hopefully not.
The judge instructs them over and over and over: "Don't read the papers, don't listen to radio," and certainly don't watch television reports like this one.
Hopefully, they're not.
[Eaman] The trial really was just an exercise to get to the verdict that the public wanted to get to, no matter what.
Now, Mr.
Eaman says, "Look at the tape.
" [Eaman] I'll never forget the prosecutor, in his rebuttal argument, used an argument that I think was quite persuasive to the jury, even though it was not an accurate argument.
And I remember an argument, kinda counting out and looking at my watch.
All right, we will see what you can do in seven seconds.
We'll begin Now.
One, two, three four, five, six, seven.
In seven seconds, your babies are in the car, you go into the river, and you're telling me you can't turn the wheel, step on the brake, turn off the key? [Simowski] There are things you can do.
This is the Motor City.
People know cars.
[Eaman] Ladies and gentlemen, we just heard a kind of argument that I think was designed more to appeal to your emotions and your feelings than it was to appeal to the evidence in this case.
Never mind that Larry said in his interview with the police when they first talked to him, "Something's stuck," he said.
"Something's stuck.
" What I'm trying to show is this case got to be a murder case because Sergeant Galeski treated it one-- like one from the beginning, and did not investigate it subjectively and ignored these clues, and that's why we're here.
[Eaman] During the interview with Mr.
DeLisle on August 5th, did he cry? Could you clarify what you mean by "cry"? -[Eaman] Shed tears.
-He shed tears.
-Okay, did his voice break on occasion? -Yes.
[Eaman] And during the interview with Mr.
DeLisle, I wanna ask you if you asked him the following questions and he gave you the following answers, all right? "DeLisle: 'My leg was killing me.
My left foot was crossed over, and I'm trying to reach down to get whatever was stuck.
'" "Stuck.
" 'I tried with my left to get on the brake pedal, but it kept slipping off.
' Galeski: 'What do you mean "stuck"? What was stuck?' DeLisle: 'I don't know.
My shoes were off.
Something was stuck in the gas pedal, and it must have been my shoes.
'" Do you remember those questions and answers? -[Galeski] Yes, I do.
-They did occur during the interview -of August 5th? -Yes.
[Eaman] They, of course, went right by that, and the general public went right by that, and the jury went right by that.
They were gonna hold these parents accountable, and they were not gonna let some technicality that got a confession kicked out prevent them from finding him guilty.
Count one, Brian DeLisle, guilty of first-degree murder.
Count two, Melissa DeLisle, guilty of first-degree murder.
Count three, Catherine DeLisle, guilty of first-degree murder.
[wife sobs] [foreman] Count four, Emily DeLisle, guilty of first-degree murder.
Count five, Suzanne DeLisle, guilty of attempted murder.
[wife whimpering, sobbing] [Mitzelfeld] After I saw the jury come back as quickly as they did, knowing that the jury knew about his statements to the police, at that point, it became clear to me that the media played a role in him not receiving a fair trial.
[camera shutters clicking] I think Mr.
DeLisle was convicted in the press before he even got to trial, and I think that it's difficult for people in the community to overlook the opinions and the attitudes that you, fellows, developed in the community.
They can't put those aside and try the case fairly.
I never felt that I had to be vindicated of anything.
And I don't feel that I've done anything wrong, and I'm glad it turned out the way it did, and I feel good about that.
Did this guy get a fair trial, or did the media blow it? I mean, did the media cover this thing at the beginning so that everybody had an opinion before -Well, Bill.
-the trial ever started? I can tell you this, there wasn't a member of the jury who didn't say, in a questionnaire that the judge had given them, that they didn't know all about this.
They'd all heard about it, they knew about it before, but they said, over and over, "We can be fair.
We can handle this properly.
We will be fair, and we will only consider what we hear here at this trial.
" You have to wonder if they-- if they stuck to their word.
[woman] Do you ever have regrets that you didn't show them the tapes? I do have regrets that the jury never got to see this tape.
I have a lot of regrets because this was a wrongful conviction.
[Mitzelfeld] I'll tell you, I don't know whether he did it on purpose or not.
My concern is whether he got a fair trial.
At the time of sentencing, Judge Colombo had some introductory comments that were, for those of us in the audience, particularly myself, pretty disturbing.
I tried very hard to try this case as fairly as any case I've ever tried.
I said, "Hey, look closely at this case.
" I made a lot of rulings on this case.
I think I followed the law.
I think I've been fair, but look at the case.
And here's what he said.
"Sentencing in this case has bothered me ever since the jury returned its verdict only because I don't know that the defendant is guilty of the crimes of which he has been found guilty.
That does not mean that I believe that he is innocent.
I just do not know.
I think it's only human to want to know that a person is guilty before you give the harshest sentence authorized in this state.
" [Mitzelfeld] You're faced with the specter of a judge sentencing an individual to five terms of life in prison without parole, and he's not sure the defendant is guilty.
[crickets chirping] [DeLisle] I've always been hypercritical of myself, which is why I've always accepted responsibility for the accident.
Because that's what it was, a tragic accident.
I should have been a better mechanic.
I should have learned how to swim.
There are lots of things I should have done.
But it was the circumstances that surrounded the inability to control the vehicle in that seven seconds to bring it to a full stop.
I mean, everything in there reflects back to me and the car.
So who are you going to blame? An inanimate object or a person that you can put away for life even though he didn't do it on purpose? And here I am, still stuck, 27 years later.
If you're lonely Waiting for a kiss And you think of All the loving That you miss