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SPRINGFIELD — Children in police custody for certain crimes would have greater protection when being interrogated by police under legislation advanced this week by Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago).

Senate Bill 2370, which passed in the Illinois Senate with bipartisan support, would require any child 15 or younger to have an attorney present during custodial interrogations by police when accused of murder and sex offenses. It also would require police to recite a simplified Miranda warning for youth.

“This is personal to me. Although this legislation is not exactly what we wanted, it’s a step in the right direction. This is dedicated to Trevon Yates. I'll never forget him. He was my motivation in filing this legislation,” Van Pelt said

Trevon Yates, then 17 years old, was arrested in 2013, by St. Clair County deputies and questioned in connection with a robbery of a couple that was lured to a parking lot in Belleville, where they expected to meet someone who had advertised an iPhone for sale on Craigslist. A two-hour interrogation video shows the East St. Louis teen repeatedly professing his innocence, begging for his mother and praying to God, before being coerced into confession by sheriff’s detectives.

Yates, who has diminished cognitive ability, was charged with armed robbery and spent nine months in jail before the charges were eventually dismissed after additional evidence cleared him of any wrongdoing. He was later awarded a $900,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit alleging the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department violated his civil rights.

The current law only requires minors under 13 years of age who are charged with murder or sex offenses to be represented by counsel during custodial interrogations. Senate Bill 2370 now moves to the House of Representative where it will be deliberated.

Van Pelt acknowledged more needs to be done to protect teens, but said this is a good start.

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