Years ago, I testified as an expert on false confessions in a case in Kentucky which resulted in a hung jury (with ten jurors voting to acquit). Tragically, in the re-trial, the defendant was convicted. I recently learned that last year Kentucky’s Supreme Court vacated the conviction because the trial court should not have admitted the defendant’s confession into evidence. Police had confronted the defendant with (among other things) a forged lab report purporting to establish his guilt. As false claims of evidence contribute to many false confessions, this decision is most welcome.
A judge has ruled my testimony admissible for a forthcoming trial in Alaska. This marks the 21st jurisdiction in which I’ve been qualified as a false confessions expert. Courts around the country increasingly permit expert testimony to inform the jurors about the counter-intuitive phenomenon of false confessions.
The notorious case of the Englewood Four in Chicago has been in the news again, as more evidence of prosecutorial corruption has emerged. What a tragic case — four teenagers coerced into false confessions spent 15 years incarcerated before being exonerated by DNA.
Last week I testified in two cases in Indiana. I have now been qualified as a false confessions expert witness in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
With the rash of executions in Arkansas, it’s a good time to remember that a number of people on death row (including some who gave false confessions) have been exonerated.
Last month I testified in South Carolina as a false confessions expert. Over the strong objections of the prosecutor, the judge ruled that the expert witness on false confessions can assist the jury in understanding the counter-intuitive phenomenon of false confessions. Courts around the country increasingly reach this conclusion and allow such testimony.
A few weeks ago the Supreme Court of Montana reversed a conviction (in a case I was involved with years ago) because the trial court wrongly allowed the defendant’s confession into evidence. The court based its decision, in part, on misrepresentations made by law enforcement to the defendant. Insofar as such misrepresentations contribute to false confessions, this is an important ruling.