We all know that someone who confesses to a crime is guilty, right?

Filed under: Criminal Law, News, Strange But True Tags: by Steven F. Fairlie @ September 16, 2010

We hear over and over that someone is guilty of a particular crime because he confessed.  But has anyone ever examined the validity of those confessions?  The New York Times just ran a provocative article examining the validity of confessions and I think the conclusions will shock many people.  I know that when confronted with DNA exonerations in sex offenses many people suggest that the victim could have had sex with someone else earlier the same day so that if the defendant’s DNA is not recovered it does not exclude him.  While that can be a valid argument in certain cases, how do you account for the case of a man who confessed to killing a woman who he claimed was wearing a halter top when in fact she was wearing a sundress?  It turned out that initial police reports contained an erroneous reference to the victim wearing a halter top.  It only makes sense that the man made that mistake after it was repeatedly suggested to him that she was wearing a halter top until he finally broke down and agreed.  How else could you explain him choosing, in the entire use of women’s attire, the same article of clothing that the police report erroneously stated she was wearing?   Worse, this man suffered 18 years of imprisonment and came within hours of being executed before his criminal defense attorneys were able to exonerate him.  Read the full story, the conclusion, and all of the examples of false confessions here.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *

Or contact me privately:

(215) 997-1000