Jurors and jurists: Beware convicting on barely-corroborated confessions

Sep 15, 2010 Jurors and jurists: Beware convicting on barely-corroborated confessions

Innocent people too often confess under police pressure. A recent New York Times article and study link reconfirm that (thanks to a listserv member for posting the article link).  Heck, I admit to having gotten tongue-tied in 1994, stopped in the middle of nowhere at a New Mexico Border Patrol checkpoint well inland, tired and disoriented by an inland highway border checkpoint in the middle of nowhere late at night on the way back to Albuquerque, by accidentally saying my rental car was my own (today I would have kept mum and just handed over the registration if required; I did better the next time I was questioned fourteen years later).

If I stumbled talking to police after three years as a criminal defense lawyer, having let my anger at the unconstitutional stop (held constitutional by the appellate courts) and exhaustion weaken my handling the situation, why should jurors and judges expect non-lawyers not to let themselves be led down the putrid path of false confessions?

Lesson learned: When a police suspect or potential suspect, don’t talk.  

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