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.