The Truth About False Confessions

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wrongful Convictions
Yesterday the New York Times joined the chorus calling for Virginia's governor to pardon the Norfolk Four. Excellent. But the Times' editorial began: "Wrongful convictions are a staple of legal fiction and thankfully less common in real life." Not all that uncommon. Consider that there are well over 200 DNA exonerations of people wrongly convicted, a figure that represents only the tip of a frighteningly large iceberg.
11:08 am est

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Common Knowledge
I recently posted that we can expect jurors to become increasingly aware of false confessions. However, we have a long way to go. This is an important point, because some courts exclude false confessions expert testimony on the bizarre basis that false confessions are "common knowledge." A new article in Arizona State Law Journal debunks that idea, offering substantial evidence that "the body of knowledge of false confessions is not only well outside of the common knowledge of jury-eligible citizens, but also that peole harbor significant misconceptions about false confessions."
11:49 am est

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not Guilty
This past Friday, a jury in Arkansas acquitted a teenager who had confessed to arson. This unusual occurrence is a great sign. The more the public learns about false confessions, the more such acquittals we will see.
7:41 am est

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blaming The Victim
Responding to my insistence on post-conviction DNA testing in cases of recanted confessions, a visistor to this site asks: "If someone was so weak willed that they falsely confessed, should they be able to later evade the consequences of their actions?" The question is problematic in multiple respects, starting with the assumption that only the weak-willed would give a false confession. Modern interrogation techniques employ powerful psychological coercion. Innocent people broken down by these techniques deserve full protection of the law.
6:50 am est

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