Richard Leo's new book on police interrogation includes a fine discussion
about the value of a false confessions expert witness. Leo points out that the confessions expert may do more than educate
judge or jury about false confessions. Because police and prosecutors don't like seeing flaws in their work exposed,
expert testimony about false confessions "may deter police misbehavior in the long run and improve police and prosecutorial
From the AP: "The Justice Department's former top criminal prosecutor
says the government's terror watch list likely has caused thousands of innocent Americans to be questioned, searched or otherwise
hassled." He should have added what no reasonable person can doubt: false confessions have resulted.
New DNA tests establish that JonBenet Ramsey's parents did not kill their
daughter. Unfortunately, they spent years under a cloud of suspicion fueled by the District Attorney's office. To her credit,
Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy has apologized, writing to John Ramsey: "No innocent person should have to endure
such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion." When it comes to false confessions, prosecutors are often less sensible
and generous -- they insist on guilt even after DNA proves innocence.
I have posted a number of times about the value of false confession expert testimony. While
many courts do not permit such testimony, lawyers in such jurisdictions can still benefit from the false confessions
expert. Such an expert, serving as consultant, can give the attorney an invaluable understanding of false confessions
as well as suggestions for challenging his client's confession.
When I introduced this site, a little more than 2 years ago, my
first post was about Marty Tankleff. Thanks to a decision by New York's attorney general earlier this week, Tankleff is finally
a free man. He had served almost two decades on account of what most observers consider his false confession.