The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided that when the police arrest someone
based on a withdrawn warrant that was mistakenly left in the computer, the evidence found during the arrest should not be
excluded at trial. Especially as we learn about the extent of wrongful convictions (stemming from false confessions and other
causes), the last thing we should be doing is encouraging sloppiness by law enforcement.
It's been a good week. On the national level, Barack Obama announced
that his administration will not engage in waterboarding. On a local level, officials in Nassau County, New York announced
that they will join the ranks of jurisdictions that videotape all interrogations related to major felonies. Both
of these actions will help reduce the number of false confessions.
In a recent case where I served as a false confessions expert, at the
suppression hearing the interrogating officer explained that he knew the defendant was guilty based on her body
language. At one point he said that, when the defendant denied her guilt, she was crying, and "the two don't add up.
If she had nothing to do with it and she was being honest about it, the emotions wouldn't have been coming out."
This is nonsense, but it's dangerous nonsense. Police are taught that
they can reliably make these kinds of assessments, but studies show that neither they nor anyone else can determine
whether someone is telling the truth based on assessments of behavior or body language.
There's a movement afoot in Georgia to eliminate the requirement of jury
unanimity for imposition of the death penalty. The last thing we should be doing is making it easier to execute people, especially
now that DNA testing has exonerated so many people wrongly convicted of crimes. A number of them, including some
who had given false confessions, had been on death row.