In 2005, DNA tests excluded Rivera as the perpetrator and he was granted a third trial. A valid false confession only occurs if the confession was obtained by force. Juveniles are extremely vulnerable to pressure. Yet false confessions have been amply documented -- as in recent cases in which new DNA evidence exonerated convicted confessors, some on death row. Instrumental voluntary false confessions are ones in which an individual comes forward on his/her behalf and confesses to the crime. But in other cases, despite the confession, factual justification Acting on an eyewitness tip, police were eventually led to a 20-year old resident named Johnny Lee Wilson and after being interrogated for nearly four hours, he confessed to the crime. Voluntary false confessions. Both state and lower federal courts are guilty of failing to take voluntariness seriously. Sometimes they may be sacrificial, to divert attention from the actual person who committed the crime. However, there was no physical evidence to tie either of them to the crime scene and the validity of Erickson’s confession has been questioned. Not only did officers contaminate the interrogation by using leading questions to tell Dassey critical information they knew, but they repeatedly told Dassey that they would help him and that he would be treated leniently if he confessed. The jogger case is notorious but not unique. Even though there is no longer any evidence to tie Ryan Ferguson to the murder, all attempts to secure him a new trial have been unsuccessful and he remains in prison. Williams, Tice and Dick were sentenced to life imprisonment while Wilson received 8 ½ years. (pause) We know, we just need you to tell us. He had an IQ of 72 and appeared to have details of the crime fed to him during 12 hours of interrogation. She had been raped, beaten and strangled to death. However, in 2012, Trump claimed he had been coerced into naming them by the prosecutor, and both he and Erickson would give sworn affidavits recanting their testimony. The Constitution, when taken seriously, offers protection against coerced and false confessions. © 2020 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC. After being subjected to many hours of interrogation, suspects can reach a breaking point where they ultimately decide to tell the authorities what they want to hear. Their statements were not consistent with the physical evidence and the prosecution downplayed the fact that none of the DNA from the crime scene matched them. A neighbor named Danial Williams and his roommate Joseph J. Dick, Jr. were soon brought in for questioning and confessed to the crime. The next time they brought Purvis in for questioning, they made sure mother wasn’t present and he was coerced him into making a taped confession. These are most often prompted by a psychiatric disorder that warp’s a suspect’s sense of reality. Take the case of Henry McCollum, whose confession was found voluntary in a brief statement by the North Carolina Supreme Court. 10 Police Tactics That Can Lead To False Confessions, 10 Deathbed Confessions And Conversions That Went…, 10 'Facts' About The Human Body That Are Completely False, 10 Hilarious But False Theories About The Penis, 10 Movies Based On True Events That Don't Tell The Truth, 10 Beloved Stories Based On Horrible True Events, Top 10 Horror Films That Claim To Be Based On Real Events, 10 Movies That Are Surprisingly Based On Books, Top 10 Reasons 2020 Wasn’t A Total Dumpster Fire Of A Year, Top 10 Weird Things That Happened In 2020, 10 More Historical Events That Sound Too Strange To Be True, Top 10 Truly Spectacular Islands For Post-Covid Travel, Top 10 Ways Apple Ensures The Secrecy Of Unreleased Products, Top 10 Under-Appreciated Movies Of The Last 20 Years, Top 10 Origin Stories Of Popular Christmas Songs, Top 10 Amazing Actors Who Are Always In Awful Movies, Top 10 Lesser Known Examples Of Man’s Cruelty, 10 Intriguing Facts About The Manhunt For John Wilkes Booth, 10 Right-Wing Extremist Plots That Failed Miserably, 10 Audacious Historical Heists Fit For Hollywood. LegalMatch provides legal insights in their online law library to help you with your case. Wilson also had an alibi for the time the murder took place and the eyewitness who implicated him was another mentally challenged man who later admitted to lying. His execution was ultimately halted when a fellow death row inmate named Joseph Giarrantano contacted a law firm to file a habeas corpus petition on Washington’s behalf. More than 200 people came forward to confess that they had kidnapped the baby of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. There are three types of false confessions: 'voluntary', 'pressured-compliant' and 'pressured-internalized'. The Supreme Court has long emphasized that “admissions and confessions of juveniles require special caution.”. 7 Voluntary False Confession – a false confession knowingly given in response to little or no police pressure. Five Harlem youths – Anton McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Kharey Wise—had been in the park the night of the attack and were brought in for an interrogation. With the exception of Salaam, they would each make videotaped confessions to the crime. She was killed in her home in Boulder, Colorado, in 1996. There are three main types of coerced or false confessions in the criminal justice system. On April 13, 1986, the small town of Aurora, Missouri was shocked when one of its most respected citizens, 79-year old Pauline Martz, was murdered. In 1994, Washington would receive clemency from the governor of Virginia and had his sentence commuted to life in prison. More:Supreme Court decision says my faith is welcomed back in America: Cake artist Jack Phillips, POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media, The Seventh Circuit’s ruling flies in the face of decades of law emphasizing that courts must take “special care” in evaluating the confessions of juveniles. There was no DNA or physical evidence to link the suspects to the crime scene, and more compelling evidence seemed to point towards Steve Branch’s stepfather, Terry Hobbs. One year later, police turned their attention to a farmhand named Earl Washington Jr., who was in custody for another crime. The case remained cold until 2004 when a young man named Chuck Erickson told police he believed he had repressed memories of having committed the murder with his friend, Ryan Ferguson. Since 2014, The Marshall Project has been curating some of the best criminal justice reporting from around the web. Remarkably, he was found guilty again because the prosecution claimed that Staker had consensual sex with someone else that night… even though she was only 11 years old! A tip from an informant eventually led authorities to 19-year old Juan Rivera, who had an IQ of 79 and was in custody on a burglary charge. The attack left her in a coma and she had no memory of the incident after she recovered. The town of West Memphis, Arkansas was shaken on May 6, 1993 when the naked bodies of three murdered boys—Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Steve Branch—were found in a drainage ditch. While Purvis was in prison, authorities seemed disinterested in pursuing other potential leads that popped up. One – there is a category of false confessions known as voluntary false confessions. On the basis of case studies, in the early 1980s Gudjonsson and MacKeith coined the term 'memory distrust syndrome (MDS)' to describe a condition where people develop profound distrust of their memory and become susceptible to relying on external cues and suggestions from others. What are records? Editorial cartoons on the presidential election, COVID-19, Trump, Biden, Democrats, racial strife and more from across the USA TODAY Network. The classic example of this type of false confession is the Lindbergh kidnapping case. Her throat had been cut, she had been sexually assaulted, and there were numerous injuries on her body. His initial confession to the Williams murder was filled with inconsistencies and he got many key details wrong, including the race of the victim and the location of the crime. 9 High-profile crimes, such as the Lindbergh kidnapping in the 1930s, the Black Dahlia murder in the 1940s, and the JonBenet Ramsey and Nicole Brown Simpson murders in the 1990s, tend … The judge decided to clear Reilly of all charges and criticized the authorities’ handling of the case. She had been beaten and burned alive when the killer set her home ablaze. Eventually, the case went to the New York Court of Appeals. In 2011, a deal was reached where the West Memphis Three would be released from prison if they entered an Alford plea, officially pleading guilty to the crime while maintaining their innocence. However, because of his schizophrenia, Purvis had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. One of the biggest causes of wrongful convictions is the false assumption that no one would ever confess to a crime they didn’t commit. By that time, the Central Park Five had already served their sentences and been forced to register as sex offenders after being released. He was a known drug and alcohol user with a history of mental illness and could not provide accurate details about the murder until they were fed to him by police. On September 28, 1973, 51-year old Barbara Gibbons was found murdered at her home in Canaan, Connecticut. Indeed, as more and more wrongful convictions are discovered, often as a result of newly av… He was threatened and intimidated by police during his interrogation and thought he would be allowed to go home if he confessed. Here are ten controversial cases where a conviction was made possible by a very questionable confession. After being interrogated, Erickson was eventually coerced into making a full confession. The Juan Rivera case is a prime example of how much weight a false confession can carry. Washington had an IQ of 69 and was coerced into making all his confessions. People who are intellectually disabled can struggle to understand the consequences of their actions and are similarly vulnerable. Voluntary false confessions arise when innocent people offer self-incriminating statements without pressure from police (often to protect someone else or to gain attention in high-profile crimes, as when 200 people confessed to the 1,932 kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son). Brandon Garrett is the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. These are cases, and they often happen in high-profile cases that are in the news, where people come out of the woodwork and volunteer confessions to crimes that are in the news that they didn’t commit. They would soon be convicted of the crime and in January 1993, John Purvis was finally released after serving nine years. A person may, for example, provide a voluntary false confession out of a desire to aid and protect the real criminal, 35 to provide an alibi for a different crime or norm violation, 36 or to get revenge on another person. 1.1. The Juan Rivera case is a prime example of how much weight a false confession can carry. Come on Brendan, what else? A confession can serve as powerful evidence of a suspect’s guilt, but criminal defendants have a constitutional right against self-incrimination. Take the case of Henry McCollum, whose confession was found voluntary in a brief statement by the North Carolina Supreme Court. Authorities eventually coerced him into signing a confession and he was sentenced to life in prison for the crime. This case is one in which Mr. Johnson, a college graduate, confessed to a serious crime he did not commit. There is minimal to no pressure from the police because the person usually confesses right away (Schwartz, 2016, p. 36). The only other piece of evidence was the testimony of a janitor named Jerry Trump, who claimed he saw Ferguson and Erickson in the parking lot that night. On the other hand, a spontaneous or voluntary false confession involves a person confessing to a crime he or she did not commit, absent police interrogation. In 1998, Rivera received a retrial because his first trial was littered with procedural errors. On June 4, 1982, 19-year old Rebecca Lynn Williams was raped and stabbed to death 38 times inside her Culpeper, Virginia apartment. The purpose of an interrogation is for law enforcement to collect information or obtain a confession and admission of guilt. False confession cases always result from the way that an interrogation has taken place. Two days later, her body was found in a wooded area. It’s bad enough when a coerced confession sends an innocent person to prison, but it’s especially horrific when it sends them to death row and almost costs them their life. Ferguson was charged and given a 40-year sentence for the murder while Erickson received 25 years. McCollum is one of many innocent people who have had judges deny relief on voluntariness claims, wrongly calling false confessions reliable. Lying is presently permitted under 1969 Supreme Court decision known as Frazier v. Cupp. High-profile rulings have affirmed now-infamous false confessions because they failed to properly analyze whether they were voluntary. Dassey confessed to murdering a woman, in association with his uncle, after being questioned by police four times over a period of 48 hours. This is a high standard and a difficult one for a defendant to meet. One month later, police brought in 17-year old Jessie Misskelley, Jr. for questioning, and he eventually confessed that he and two other teens, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, had murdered the three boys as part of a satanic ritual. Beginning with the Salem witch trials of 1692, numerous false confessions surfaced when it was later discovered that the confessed crime had not been committed (e.g., the alleged victim turned up alive) or that it was physically impossible (e.g., the confessor was demonstrably elsewhere) or when the real perpetrator was apprehended (e.g., by ballistics evidence). False confessions were more common before the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which protected vulnerable people in custody, says Mr O'Connor, by making it an automatic right to have a solicitor present to advise them on answering questions. Even though they are now free, they have never been officially exonerated and the real killer of the three boys remains unpunished. 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