Trial continues for Santa Maria teen accused of killing newborn - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Trial continues for Santa Maria teen accused of killing newborn

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The trial of a 15-year-old girl charged in the death of her newborn baby continued Friday in Santa Maria.

Police say the teen, identified as "Maribel S.", had given birth in January when officers went to her home and found the baby dead. An autopsy revealed the baby died of traumatic injuries.

On Friday, the defense brought in an expert witness to testify on the teen’s behalf. This witness follows the prosecution’s video earlier this week that showed Maribel S. verbally confessing to the incident in January after being interrogated by investigators. 

A Santa Maria Police sergeant is recorded on video interrogating Maribel S. saying, "You have two choices. You're either a baby-killing monster or you got nervous and scared made an honest mistake, but if you are not 100% honest with me, unless you tell me the truth, I can't help you."

Friday morning, expert Dr. Richard Leo took the stand. He’s a professor of law specializing in police interrogation tactics and said suspects are sometimes coerced by police into giving a false confession.

Dr. Leo said, in this case, police accused Maribel S. of lying about killing the newborn and gave her an ultimatum, offering her help and counseling in exchange for a confession. 

Dr. Leo said interrogators are trained to cut off denials, which Maribel S. did often in this case, denying killing her baby. 

The prosecution cross examined Dr. Leo arguing that the investigators made non-contaminating statements, allowing Maribel S. to answer freely. 

Dr. Leo also said juveniles are more susceptible to giving a false confession due to impulsiveness, brain development and not understanding long term consequences.

Court will continue Monday afternoon with another witness from the defense. 

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office does not plan to charge the girl as an adult. Police say the crime could have been avoided had "Maribel S." used the "safely surrender baby law", which allows parents to give up an infant within 72 hours of birth.

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