Earlier this month, in the case of Dassey v. Dittmann, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a state court’s determination that a confession to rape/murder by a minor was voluntary. Most encouraging, though, is Judge Rovner’s excellent dissenting opinion arguing that courts’ treatment of police trickery in a voluntariness determination needs to be rethought based on our increasing understanding of false confessions.
Attorneys looking for a false confessions expert witness should know that I have been qualified as an expert in the following jurisdictions: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and federal court in Mississippi.
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.