Louisiana Man Claims Detectives Forced Him to Confess

August 28, 2012

A Marrero, La., man accused of setting an apartment on fire that killed three people, including his 19-month-old daughter, is asking a federal judge to toss out a confession he alleges was taken by Jefferson Parish detectives using illegal tactics.

The Times-Picayune reports that lawyers for Cyrus Casby, 27, filed court documents this week that allege detectives “duped” him into confessing, thereby violating his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

He faces the death penalty or life in prison if convicted in the Nov. 10, 2004, deaths in an apartment in Harvey.

A federal grand jury indicted Casby last year on charges of arson affecting interstate commerce resulting in death. In 2008, a Jefferson Parish jury acquitted Casby of four counts of second-degree murder in the case, rejecting evidence that included a victim’s DNA on his clothing. Casby denies involvement.

Casby is accused of fatally stabbing his girlfriend, Cynthia Carto, 17, inside her family apartment, and then using gasoline to set it on fire.

His daughter with Cynthia, Cyanna Carto; Cynthia’s mother, Janice Carto, 33; and Janice Carto’s son, Cleveland McGinnis Jr., 11, died from smoke inhalation. Jarvis Carto, another of Janice’s sons, was left with permanent brain damage caused by inhaling the smoke. He was 10 at the time. A firefighter also was injured.

Casby allegedly stabbed three people, including Cleveland McGinnis, before pouring gasoline on the upstairs landing and outside the bedrooms in which the stabbings occurred. Authorities said he then ignited the gasoline, trapping the wounded family members inside the bedrooms.

Casby is being prosecuted only for the three smoke-inhalation deaths and two injuries caused by the fire, because Cynthia Carto died from the 21 stab wounds she received before the fire was set.

The trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 5 in U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon’s court in New Orleans.

In new court documents, Casby’s lawyers accuse detectives of wearing Casby down with repeated questioning, depriving him of sleep and resorting to trickery and physical abuse. Casby also accuses a detective of pretending to be a lawyer hired by his family, who advised him to confess, claim self-defense and try to make a deal for a manslaughter charge.

Casby also claimed another detective lied to him by telling him his daughter was alive, but that he would never see her again unless he confessed. He accuses a detective of beating him, taking care to not cause injury to his face, and of using a Taser to shock him while he was handcuffed.

Detectives denied abusing Casby.

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