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Thursday, June 20, 2019

On false confessions, will common sense prevail?


I have a problem with the President.

I’m not talking politics, here…that would take a separate book. I’m talking about an issue of extreme importance in the field of justice: the false confession.

U.S. News reported this week that “President Trump continued his refusal to apologize for his 1989 call to execute five teenagers who were falsely accused of rape in the notorious Central Park Five case.”

For the record, you should know that Trump took out full-page ads in New York City newspapers in 1989 calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following the arrest of these five teens ― four of whom were black and one Hispanic ― in connection with the rape of a white jogger in Central Park.

Thank God, the kids weren’t executed, because there’s more to the story.

The low point of this story is that all five teens were convicted based on coerced confessions and little evidence. The high point is that they were exonerated in 2002 thanks to DNA evidence and were paid millions by the city to settle lawsuits.

Here’s the thing: False confessions are a major cause of wrongful convictions. And it doesn’t help when the New York Prosecutor says she doesn’t care what the DNA tests proved, she still thinks these guys are guilty…and when the President of the United States agrees.

According to the Innocence Project, 30 percent of all DNA exonerations involve false confessions. The National Registry of Exonerations estimates that 182 out of 1432 known exonerations (or 13 percent) involved a false confession as a contributing factor.

Why would someone confess to a crime that he or she did not commit? Good question, but stop to think about it.

-In Texas, for example, prosecutors get false confessions by telling a suspect that if he admits to the crime, they’ll make sure he will not get the death penalty.
-In Michigan, prosecutors persuade alleged sex offenders to plead to a lesser charge to avoid placing their name on our state’s terrible sex offender registry.
-Chicago has a horrendous record of cops beating and torturing suspects until they signed confessions.
We know of a Detroit case where a suspect with an IQ in the 60s signed a confession when he couldn’t read or write.

This is a serious problem, boys and girls, and it won’t get much better when our political and judicial leaders refuse to remove their blinders.

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