Wednesday, February 27, 2008

False confessions "a systematic feature of American criminal justice"

Reacting to this item about the fate of Christopher Ochoa and Richard Danziger, two Austin men wrongfully convicted because Ochoa confessed, even though innocent, in the face of intense police questioning, Anne Reed at the blog Deliberations points to a new, relevant book shedding further light on false confessions titled Police Interrogation And American Justice, by University of San Francisco law professor Richard Leo, soon to be published by Harvard University Press. Writes Leo:
The problem of false confession is not limited to a small number of cases. These studies reveal that false confessions are therefore not an anomaly but a systematic feature of American criminal justice, despite procedural safeguards such as Miranda rights and a constitutional prohibition against legally coercive interrogation techniques. . . . Unless police change their procedures for selecting suspects and their interrogation practices, false confessions will continue to occur regularly.
Reed suggests hopefully, "There are briefs to be written out of this book. If enough of them win, the reforms Leo proposes in his final chapter might begin to take hold." (If any attorney reading this happens to write and file such a brief, please be sure to forward me a copy.) I agree this is an area ripe for reform, if not in the courtroom then in the legislative arena.


Anonymous said...

Racist and unAmerican!
July 2005 my 15 year old son witnessed the shoot out and murder of an adult drug dealer in Abilene, TX.(across the street from where we had recently moved). Police stopped and arrested 15 year old Moishe as he tried to get home. His full face and complete identity was shown on the KTXS(ABC) news 3 or more times daily, (the arrest that night)and for the next 5 days.The initial news tape showed he had no obvious blood on the front of his white t-shirt. He was fast tracked to TaylorCounty adult jail by Judge Barbara Rollins who refused to acknowledge that Moishe had never been in trouble before. Finally with paid backstabber attorney, R. McCool, Moishe was coerced after two years jail confinement (no bail) to a 30 year plea. He is now in Lamesa, TX at Smith Unit. No DNA, no GSR, no fingerprints, no rights, no constitution, no justice, no evidence linking him to the dope dealer murder. The shooter (unknown to Moishe) happily left town I'm told.
No justice for children in Taylor County, TX
I later learned that they were ALL aware of the lack of evidence needed to implicate Moishe. Moishe was told, by W. Knowles (McCool's detective) that if he was a rich little white boy from a real good family, he would have already walked. "But you're're just some poor black kid nobody knows and they gonna hang you boy!"
All this happened during two consecutive 30 day periods Moishe was not allowed visitors. Except I later learned that the drug dealer's family was allowed in to visit our son and had also been writing him. We never knew that family but as I passed the deceased man's mother and simply spoke saying hello, she would not even part her lips to say hello or anything to me. What could she have to to say to a kid that they called a liar and a worthless piece of s...?
Who will be the one to help the children of west Texas?
Box 7512
Abilene, TX 79608
(325) 793-1005

Oh, yes this was all turned in to the FBI,ACLU, elected officials and multiple Innocence Agencys

Ron in Houston said...


I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment to the Ochoa post about the Reid technique.

It is a systematic failure of the way we've developed criminal investigations.

Until more is said about this and we own up to our failings, it will just continue and more innocent people will be convicted.

Ron in Houston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Also see Mourning Miranda.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, this is what police do best: lie to the public. They love undercover work where they lie about their identities. They plant evidence. They lie about drugs to maintain support for the abusive drug war policy. The invent stories of wrongdoing to justify stopping "suspicious looking" people. And no, it is not limited to people of color. When I was younger and dressed in gym rat clothing doing my long runs in bad neighborhoods I was subjected to all sorts of wild accusations by police. When I was in those same neighborhoods in business apparel I got apologies and a show of respect.
And all we get in the media are whitewashes and cop shows glorifying police as heroic underdogs and even glorifying the lies they tell the public to do their duty.

Anonymous said...


I empathize with you for it is not only happening in west Texas but in the East part of the state also. I posted a small run down of my husband's in the thread Would you confess to save your life? It was to a degree the same way with a few exceptions

Anonymous said...

well i remember the article on that boy in TYC that refused to admit to his charge and i remember all ya'll tagging him and saying the parents was bad and the kid was bad. so, whats the difference if its a grown ass person or a young man tyring to grow? the justice system and the prosecutors need really tight rules and some checks and balance sytems - i think all the recent exonerations, the clear and loud IM INNOCENTS NEED to be looked into. and then the real truth will be revealed....the incarceration and convictions are based on non-truths and faulty witness testimony and lies - the convictions - based on race. i hope that fella chatman does sue....and the boy in atlanta and the boys in tyc - so somebody, like the tax payers, will say ENOUGH. i aint the smartest person around but i am somebody with a brain....we will be paying for the innocent to be incarcerated and we will be the ones paying for their freedom....