The Truth About False Confessions

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Confession Suppressed
Good news from Montana, where I recently served as a false confessions expert witness at a suppression heaing. The judge has granted the defense's motion to suppress the confession. As more judges act accordingly, interrogators will be slower to resort to the kinds of tactics that produce false confessions.
1:53 pm est

Thursday, October 23, 2008

DNA Testing
The Innocence Project has helped a man in Pennsylvania file a brief challenging a terrible ruling. A judge denied the man his statutory right to post-conviction DNA testing. Sophisticated DNA tests, which were are not available at the time of the man's trial more than a decade ago, could conclusively establish his innocence or guilt. But the judge reasoned that, because his confession was ruled voluntary at his trial, he cannot establish actual innocence. This is bizarre at best. The voluntariness of a confession is a subjective legal determination. The truth or falsity of a confession, by contrast, is a matter of historical fact. DNA can get at that fact, and to deny someone the opportunity to utilize it, simply because a judge decided that his confession was voluntary, makes no sense. There are many proven false confessions that were deemed voluntary by a trial judge. 
2:57 pm est

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Justice Delayed
I've received several messages recently from families or friends of people eventually exonerated after giving a false confession. The common theme is that the false confessor himself, and sometimes his family as well, suffered from the fallout long after charges were dropped. It's a useful reminder of the heavy toll exacted by false confessions -- even when they don't result in convictions.
4:12 pm est

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

War On Drugs
Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a case in which the lower court found lack of probable cause to search individuals where the police witnessed an allegedly suspicious transaction but without actually seeing drugs. This is a good thing. We don't need the Court widening the power of police in this area. One tragedy of the war on drugs is its tendency to spur more aggressive police action and produce false confessions.
10:30 am est

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Something Different
This website has nothing to do with false confessions, but it's law-related and looks interesting.
9:08 am est

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A public defender writes to tell me about a case where a policeman tricked an unsuspecting man into signing a false confession which the officer then used as leverage to make the confessor an informant. Farfetched?  Not in an age where law enforcement trickery is encouraged. 
9:24 am est

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