Attack On The Grieving
DECEMBER 24, 2008 - PRESSURING THE MATERNAL GRANDMOTHEROn Christmas Eve, 2008, police conducted an interview with Joy Vaughn, Jocelynn’s maternal grandmother, in which they made no real attempt to gain information from Mrs. Vaughn, but instead used the time to assert that Clayton had harmed his daughter. When she inquired about the results of the autopsy, they admitted that they did not yet have the report or its findings. To Mrs. Vaughn, there appeared to be no other goal to this “interview” except to try, at the emotional time of Christmas Eve, to turn her against Clayton.
- Mrs. Vaughn had previously been interviewed at the hospital where she told the investigating officer what she understood of the accident, and how closely it resembled what had happened when she and her daughter Melody were watching the baby three days before her death.
- At the time of the trial, no transcripts or recordings were available of this interview or the interviews of several other family members and friends that were conducted at the hospital. One of them, Jocelynn’s maternal grandfather, remembers being recorded.
- Mrs. Vaughn had also been interviewed earlier in the month and provided many details of the baby’s health, abilities, and the baby’s relationship with Clayton: details that the prosecution would assert in the trial had been made up years later.
JANUARY 23, 2009 - ATTACK ON THE MOTHER
On January 23rd, 2009, police subjected Jocelynn’s 22-year-old mother, CJ, to an interrogation in which they forced her to view autopsy pictures of her child for nearly 4 hours. They did this while yelling at her that she "Never loved Jocelynn" because she would not turn against her husband whom she knew was innocent. The police knew the mother was not at home when the incident took place, but were trying to get her to agree to wear a “glass wire” and call her husband. She refused.
- The police started showing CJ autopsy pictures of Jocelynn within roughly the first 15 minutes - something that her family believes indicates that it was the plan of the police all along.
- The officers gave CJ the impression she could not leave, and threatened to take immediate action against her husband (pick him up) if she did not cooperate. CJ knew he was sick and depressed, and was not emotionally prepared for what they might do to him. Clayton is an optimist by nature and tends to cope by deciding that there is not a problem. In previous conversations with the family, he had maintained his belief that the police understood that he was innocent. The police continued the harsh interrogation of CJ hours after they had already picked Clayton up for questioning.
- Subsequent to this interrogation CJ endured years of flashbacks, nightmares and crippling panic attacks from which she now, finally, has some degree of relief.
- This interrogation was video taped by the police, and recorded by CJ on a small voice recorder. Initially the District Attorney’s office asserted that the recording had been lost. After they were made aware that CJ also had a recording, the missing videotape was “found.”
- During trial, the lead prosecutor grilled CJ on why she had not provided specifics about the child's health and physical abilities during this interrogation while pointing out to the jury the thickness of the transcript. CJ was not allowed to explain the true character of this interrogation or the “demeanor” of the police involved. Using this example, the prosecutor accused CJ of not telling police of details of Jocelynn health history and abilities that she clearly had in earlier interviews according to transcripts in his possession. He falsely represented to the jury that the family had not told the police Jocelynn’s abilities at the time, but had made up the story at CJ’s behest several years later. This prosecutor knew of and was in possession of transcripts of the previous interviews where the mother and others had provided detailed information of the kind he was speaking of.
- Shockingly, the judge seemed to make obvious facial expressions during CJ’s testimony which to others in the courtroom seemed to indicate that she did not believe her. However, It is possibly safe to assume she did not realize the extent to which the prosecution was lying to her.
JANUARY 23, 2009 - PICKING UP THE FATHER
- The investigation was conducted by the Alaska State Troopers (AST). Per testimony in a pretrial hearing, before officers went to talk to Clayton, they made a plan to question him at his home to avoid arousing his suspicions or needing to read him his rights. They told an officer from the Wasilla Police Department (WPD), who was new to the case, that Clayton had killed his daughter, and showed him the flawed autopsy report. However, when the officers saw that friends were at the house, they abandoned their original plan and invited him to come with them to the local WPD police station. At the station, the AST officer insisted that they read Clayton his rights. The WPD officer told Clayton it was merely a “formality” and that he shouldn’t pay attention to it. Later when Clayton mentioned that he was wondering if he needed a lawyer present, the WPD officer spoke at some length to persuade Clayton against requesting an attorney.
- At the police station, police questioned him using the Reid technique, a method which is illegal in some other countries because it is known for creating false memories and false confessions. At an evidentiary hearing, the WPD officer bragged that he had advanced training in the Reid technique. Using this method officers convinced Clayton:
- that they had scientific evidence that although Jocelynn fell down the stairs, the fall couldn’t have killed her
- that bouncing and other gentle playing with a baby could lead to their death. They encouraged him to try to remember such a scenario, helping convince him that he had killed his child. After being removed from the emotionally overwrought time with law enforcement he regained normality and realized that he had no real memory of harming her.
- Family and friends who observed Clayton while still in the presence of the police, noted that he was behaving very oddly, looking to police before he made movements or statements, and confessing to being afraid of a brother that he is close to and never would be normally afraid of.
- At no time, even when he temporarily thought he was guilty, did Clayton change his story: that he was playing with Jocelynn when he went to the bathroom, heard her fall down the stairs, and found her crying at the bottom of the stairs with her head against the wooden chair. He still insisted she had seemed normal and happy when he was playing with her. However, he had been convinced that there was some kind of scientific forensic investigation done that proved beyond a doubt that the fall did not cause his daughter’s death, and so something that he was having trouble remembering must have killed her.
- Clayton had felt responsible for circumstances surrounding Jocelynn’s death from the beginning, because, just like her aunt and grandmother the weekend before, he had inadvertently left the baby gate open at the top of the stairs. In the months prior to the interrogation, he would often say in an anguished way, “I was plunging the toilet when my baby died!” trying to come to grips with how ridiculous that seemed to him and as proof that he was somehow unfit as a father. For months his family had been trying to help him understand that this was an innocent mistake.
- The night of January 23rd when he became temporarily convinced that he must have done something that had harmed her, he became very upset and started imagining his worst fears. He was trying to convince the loved ones that had been trying to encourage him all along that, No! they needed to “face facts” and be angry with him. However, it was obvious to the family members and friends present that:
- he was speaking in a confused sort of uncharacteristically circular way that was not his normal way of speaking, but instead to them sounded like he was distraught and not thinking straight.
- he was describing something totally out of character for him, as if it had been happening all the time. (Remember, this was a group of family and friends that were constantly together. They had seen him interact with the baby all the time and knew his gentle and playful care for her, and her happy interaction with him. They saw her routinely in just a diaper or when changing her, and knew that they had never seen anything of concern.)
- none of his description of the accident, and the playtime with Jocelynn before it, had changed at all. Instead of telling them he had lied or mislead them, he was insisting he was guilty, while saying essentially: I told you the truth about what I really believed before I talked to the police, but now I know something else that I have to make you understand. One of the family friends present that night, after hearing Clayton’s description of what he was told and why he now believed he was at fault, has said repeatedly since: “I know that they could have convinced me that I killed my child.”
- Clayton was receiving visual and physical prompts and cues from the three police officers who returned to the house with him the entire time he relayed his story. Family members witnessed officers: touching his shoulder at key points, nodding after specific phrases, standing in spaces in the room they didn't appear to want him to stray into, and gesturing for him to continue relaying his story or to demonstrate to family.
CONTINUED MISREPRESENTATION OF FACTS
After the verdict, a probation officer was tasked with writing a report to recommend a sentence for Clayton. The report so horribly twisted the facts and misquoted statements in the case, that CJ took the time to take it apart line-by-line and demonstrate why each statement was false by quoting the actual transcripts of the interviews.
- When she talked to the parole officer about these inaccuracies, it became evident that their source was the police summaries he had relied on for information. Over and over he said of the police summaries, “But why would they say that, if that is not what was said?” We have no answer.
- This same report also relied on and quoted statements made by an out-of-state relative of the accused. The parole officer chose to make the individual an official “victim” on record in the case despite the fact that they did not meet the statutory requirement for a victim, and none of the other members of the large in-state family had been added. After the report was filed, CJ was able to inform him that this relative had never been in the same state as the baby during her short life, and so had no first-hand information at all. Later, when CJ asked for the list to be corrected (as it will continue to have affect on proceedings well into the future), the parole officer told her, "I can't actually, with my authority, do that," despite the fact that he chose to add the relative earlier under that same authority.
- When pressed on why he would choose not to correct the now inaccurate court record, the parole officer stated, "That could pose a problem with me...I might have, um. I might have, uh, some HR problems with that," and, "Um, so it's hard for me to take it back without being liable for something.