Documentary on teen’s case seeks to change juvenile interrogation policy
Police can question minors without their parents’ knowledge. A new documentary hopes to change that.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - O’Shay Sims was 17 years old when he underwent a massive transformation. He walked through the doors of 201 Poplar Ave as a high school band member and walked out a murder suspect.
The teen’s seven-hour interrogation, without an adult present, ended with a written confession.
“It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is to clear you if you confess. You’re gonna be charged with murder,” said Memphis attorney Mike Working in a new documentary examining teen interrogations.
The documentary, “What We’ll Never Know,” is produced by Forever Ready Productions and premieres on Saturday, Oct. 22.
The story begins with the murder of 26-year-old Antaeus Colbert, who was gunned down near the intersection of Lamar Avenue and Airways Boulevard in June 2018.
Police zeroed in on Sims as a suspect because, in part, his number was in the victim’s call log and he wanted to help investigators.
“He went down willingly to the police station for questioning and he had no idea they were about to question him for murder,” Lauren Ready told the Action News 5 Investigators. She produced the film after being contacted by Sims’ attorney.
”I just felt like there’s a grave misjustice here and we’ve really got to tell people about it because I feel like people don’t know this is how it’s done,” she said.
How Memphis police interrogate juveniles is covered in their policy manual.
It says, in part, investigators must make a “reasonable effort” to contact a parent or guardian; when possible, a parent or guardian should be present; and special caution should be used when interrogating a child under 16.
An adult presence isn’t required under state law either, and the interrogation doesn’t need to be recorded.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy can’t change the law but believes it should be changed.
“[Children are] more likely to feel they have to say something, to respond to a question when it’s not in their interest to say so,” said Mulroy. “They’re more likely to give an answer that they think the authority figure wants, even if it’s not necessarily true.”
After spending more than a year in jail, Sims secured an attorney who told the court that the Fairley High School student had falsely confessed. Sims was released on his own recognizance to await trial.
We’ll never know why O’Shay Sims confessed to a crime he later said he didn’t commit. He died in a car accident two months after he was released from jail.
General Mulroy stopped short of saying he would reopen the Colbert murder case, but said he would support a bill like the one a Memphis lawmaker plans on introducing in January.
State Representative Torrey Harris wants all juvenile interrogations to be recorded.
“Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat or Independent, you truly want to see the best for our children so a simple recording - video, audio recording - shouldn’t be too much to ask for,” he said.
Ready agrees and hopes her documentary exposes what she sees as a lack of protection for children who haven’t been arrested or charged — children like Sims, who thought he was being helpful, but left in handcuffs.
“It’s not about innocence or guilt for me,” said Ready. “it’s about something so much bigger.”
Ready believes the person responsible for Colbert’s murder is still out there awaiting justice.
Action News 5 reached out to the murder victim’s family and friends to get their take on the story and the efforts to change state law but our attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.
You can learn more about the O’Shay Sims case, and hear from his attorneys, when the documentary “What We’ll Never Know” premieres at the Indie Memphis Film Festival this Saturday.
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