New York Times article of false confessions

Written By: Reid
Nov 30, 2011
On November 27, 2011 the New York Times published an extensive article on several false confession cases. The focus of the article is on several cases from Illinois involving subsequent DNA testing. One item of note in the article is the statement that, "In his 2011 book, ''Convicting the Innocent,'' Brandon Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia, examined most of the case files for the first 250 DNA exonerations. Garrett found that 76 percent of wrongly convicted prisoners were misidentified by a witness and half the cases involved flawed forensic evidence. The testimony of an informant, often a jailhouse cellmate of the accused, was pivotal in 21 percent of the cases. Perhaps most surprising, 16 percent -- virtually all of whom were subjected to interrogations lasting several hours and, in many cases, days -- confessed to crimes they didn't commit."

As we have noted in our training programs and publications, excessively long interrogations increase the possibility of false confessions. If no progress has been made within 4 hours, the investigator should re-consider the subject's status, particularly if the suspect's denials remain adamant and persistent. Certainly interrogations can exceed 4 hours when new evidence is developed; when the suspect changes their story; when the suspect makes a partial admission; etc., but absent any of these or similar circumstances, great care should be exercised when interrogations exceed about 4 hours.
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