Back in 2012 I wrote about how James Guilford was convicted of killing his girlfriend Sharon Nugent, who disappeared in 2007, but his conviction was under appeal for quite good reasons and might be overturned. The police unquestionably violated his civil rights.
Well, it turns out it was overturned. And he got a new trial, and got convicted again — because he was quite guilty — and the judge said — and I love this:
“You treated Sharon Nugent like a piece of garbage. There are no reasons, no excuse for what you’ve done. If I had in my power Mr. Guilford, I would sentence you to spend the rest of your life in a garbage dumpster.”
Instead, the judge had to sentence him to 25 years to life in prison.
Back in 2008, Sharon Nugent‘s boyfriend, James Guilford, was found guilty of murdering her and throwing her body in a dumpster in Syracuse, New York; it was never found. I just found this six-month-old article about him appealing his conviction, based on the fact that the police interrogated him for 49 and a half hours straight.
During this time he got no sleep at all, and wasn’t permitted to leave the ten-by-ten room except to go to the bathroom. For food he got one sandwich 20 hours in. He made incriminating statements but didn’t actually confess to murder. Then after 49 and a half hours he finally asked for a lawyer, and he got an eight-hour break from interrogation, after which time he confessed. Apparently there’s no evidence that he got any sleep during the break, though I can’t imagine what else he would have done.
The appeals court has upheld the confession and his conviction, but by a narrow margin: three to two. All of them thought the 49 and a half hour marathon of questioning was unconstitutional and threw out all the statements he made during that time. Only three of the five judges thought the eight-hour break afterwards was sufficient for him to get his brain back in gear enough that his confession was free and voluntary. The article notes that Mr. Guilford will probably take his case to a higher court of appeals and he just might win.
Now, I don’t have any sympathy for the man, because he was clearly guilty. He went running off to Georgia the same day he reported Sharon missing (thereby attracting law enforcement’s suspicion), taking a hammer with him. They found her blood spattered all over the walls and ceiling of Sharon’s apartment, as well as a blood-soaked mattress, and when they found Guilford’s hammer it had Sharon’s blood on it too. Guilford probably would have been convicted of killing Sharon Nugent even if he hadn’t confessed.
But 49 1/2 hours seems quite excessive. I think in a situation like that, under so much stress and with practically nothing to eat (and I’m hypoglycemic) and no sleep at all, you might be able to get me to confess to being the second gunman on the grassy knoll.