Last week Marty Tankleff reached a $10 million settlement with Suffolk County, New York. Tankleff, who gave a coerced false confession to killing his parents, served 17 years in prison before his conviction was vacated. His was the first case I wrote up on this website, and one of the first in which I served as a false confessions expert.
The Innocence Project is up to 354 DNA exonerations, and reports that more than one fourth of the people wrongly convicted gave false confessions or at least made incriminating admissions.
Earlier this week I testified as a false confessions expert at a homicide trial in Connecticut. This is the 22nd jurisdiction in which I have been qualified as a false confessions expert witness.
My testimony last week at a trial in Alaska marked my 30th appearance as an expert witness on false confessions. The false confessions expert can, among other things, help a jury understand this counter-intuitive phenomenon.
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.