Earlier this week I testified at a hearing in Kentucky concerning a claim for post-conviction relief. It was the 45th case in which I have served as a false confession expert witness. Results won’t be known for a while.
Good News From Oregon
Oregon’s governor has commuted all of the state’s death sentences. Especially given that we know about innocent people rescued from death row, including some who gave false confessions, this is welcome news.
Last week I testified in a sexual assault trial in Kentucky, the 43rd case in which I’ve been qualified as a false confessions expert.
In a regrettable decision (in the case of Shinn v. Ramirez), the Supreme Court made it more difficult for prisoners to bring claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Many such claims have been brought by people who gave false confessions. They and others will now have a harder time establishing their innocence. Does the Court not realize that wrongful convictions are far more common than we used to think?
Keep an eye out for Saul Kassin’s important forthcoming book, Duped. Saul is perhaps the world’s leading authority on false confessions and helped get me started as a false confessions expert.
The Innocence Project continues to report that, of its several hundred cases of DNA exonerations, roughly one fourth involved false confessions. Can anyone still doubt the prevalence of false confessions?
Good for the AG
Kudos to Attorney General Merrick Garland for putting on hold all death sentences in the federal system. Many people on death row, including some who gave false confessions, were later exonerated.
Race and False Confessions
Earlier this month, three African-American men whose false confessions led to 24 years of incarceration were ordered released by a judge in New York. (I was involved in the case.) The connection between race and false confessions warrants more study by false confessions experts.
New York is considering a law that would ban interrogation deception by law enforcement. This would be a huge step forward. As any false confessions expert can attest, lying to suspects significantly contributes to false confessions.
Looking forward to the Biden administration pursuing criminal justice reform, including addressing the problem of false confessions. While most false confessions occur at the state level, federal law enforcement also uses the interrogation tactics that contribute to false confessions.