PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Guilty plea Series: Part (11): U.S. Cases; The Innocence Project has demonstrated a compelling need to expose the disturbing number of convictions in America attributed to guilty pleas rendered by innocent people in America. However, the problem of false guilty pleas is is common to many other jurisdictions, including Ontario, where I reside. I would like to make my own contribution to the Innocence Project's campaign, by running a series of posts taken from this Blog and elsewhere, which vividly illustrate the point. (Many of the posts were based on reports by my friend and colleague the late Tracey Tyler. the Toronto Star's talented legal affairs reporter for many years, until her untimely death. She had no patience for miscarriages of justice.) A common factor in many of the cases in this series is the presence of former doctor Charles Smith, the namesake of this Blog. In each case, the defence lawyer recommended a guilty plea to a lesser offence in order to avoid the ramifications of a conviction on the more serious charge - almost guaranteed by the now notorious former doctor's involvement in the case - in spite of the client's protests of innocence.
Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;
LAW JOURNAL ARTICLE: "From false evidence ploy to false guilty plea: an unjustified path to securing convictions, by Katie Wynbrandt, published by The Yale Law Journal in Volume 126, number 2, November, 2016.
GIST: (Introduction): On June 20, 1991, two police officers brought an African American man named Anthony Gray into custody for questioning related to the unsolved rape and murder of a woman in Calvert County, Maryland.1 During the interrogation, the detectives lied to Mr. Gray about the evidence police held against him. They told him that two other men had confessed to involvement in the crime and had named Mr. Gray as the killer.2 They told him that he had failed two hour-long polygraph tests.3 And they told him that they “knew” he had committed the crime.4 In reality, no one had confessed to the crime or identified Anthony Gray as the perpetrator.5 Mr. Gray did not fail the polygraph tests.6 Instead, the police had gathered “a substantial amount of exculpating evidence” during the period of time when Mr. Gray was being interrogated.7 Witnesses reported having seen a lone white man driving from the crime scene in the victim’s car, and the hair evidence that police recovered could have only come from a Caucasian man.8 But after a series of interrogations in which he was repeatedly confronted with the fabricated evidence against him, Mr. Gray pled guilty.9 The court imposed two concurrent life sentences.10 Anthony Gray spent more than seven years behind bars before he was exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence.11 With the benefit of hindsight, Anthony Gray’s ordeal appears to be an unambiguous miscarriage of justice. Nevertheless, current law sanctions the practice of confronting suspects with false evidence against them during interrogations—a practice social scientists have termed “the false evidence ploy”12—and the Supreme Court has imposed no requirements for disclosure of false evidence during plea negotiations.13 The circumstances that led to Mr. Gray’s wrongful conviction are not an anomaly; the law is bereft of safeguards to prevent suspects from making plea decisions based on inaccurate information about their likelihood of conviction at trial. This Comment draws attention to the false evidence ploy’s danger of triggering false guilty pleas. To date, legal scholarship addressing this type of police trickery14 has focused on its risk of producing false confessions,15 and with good reason: more than ten percent of the nearly two thousand American exonerees falsely confessed to the crime for which they were wrongfully convicted.16 But these statistics fail to capture the bigger picture. Approximately ninety-four percent of state convictions and ninety-seven percent of federal convictions result from guilty pleas.17 Indeed, a guilty plea—as opposed to a confession—constitute a larger victory for law enforcement officers who believe, rightly or wrongly, that a suspect committed a crime.18 After a guilty plea is entered, there will be no trial, and barriers to appeal are nearly insurmountable.19 Reversals of convictions resulting from guilty pleas are therefore extremely rare.20 Accordingly, there is a dearth of false guilty plea exonerations and associated case law21 to fuel wrongful convictions literature, particularly on the topic of the false evidence ploy. This Comment aims to fill that gap. In a country where more than two million people are incarcerated,22 even a marginally heightened risk of false guilty pleas translates into a number of unwarranted person-years behind bars that is difficult to contemplate and impossible to justify. The Comment proceeds in two Parts. Part I argues that the legal and theoretical justifications for police trickery as a means to secure confessions do not remain viable in the context of plea bargaining. Courts apply the legal standard articulated in Frazier v. Cupp23 only when suspects do not plead guilty and instead exercise their right to a trial, and the criminal justice system provides few tools to ameliorate the coercive effects of the false evidence ploy during the plea-bargaining process. Part II proposes two doctrinal routes for courts to mitigate the damaging effects of the false evidence ploy in plea-bargaining outcomes without overruling Supreme Court precedent.........i. the false evidence ploy pressures innocent suspects to plead guilty'; A. Interrogation Methods on the Supreme Court’s Permissive Standard for Police Trickery; The Reid Technique is the “most influential and widely used” interrogation protocol in the United States.24 An organization called John E. Reid & Associates developed the method in the mid-twentieth century and has since trained more interrogators than any other organization in the world.25 The Reid Technique is codified in Criminal Interrogation and Confessions (otherwise known as the “Reid Manual”),26 a handbook that is frequently termed “the bible of modern police interrogation training.”27 Over the past several decades,28 the Reid Manual’s approach to interrogation has shaped “nearly every aspect of modern police interrogations, from the setup of the interview room to the behavior of detectives.”29 Detectives’ use of fabricated evidence is no exception. The Reid Manual teaches law enforcement to carry out the false evidence ploy because it is “clearly the most persuasive” interrogation tactic “[w]ithin the area of deception.”30 It instructs detectives to, for example, bring “visual props” into the interview room, including “a DVD disc, CD-ROM, audio tape, a fingerprint card, an evidence bag containing hair or other fibers, spent shell casings, [and] vials of colored liquid.”31 It also announces a “clear position” that “merely introducing fictitious evidence during an interrogation” cannot lead to false admissions of guilt.32 Contradicting decades of social science evidence33 and scores of DNA exonerations,34 the Reid Manual states that “[i]t is absurd to believe that a suspect who knows he did not commit a crime would place greater weight and credibility on alleged evidence than his own knowledge of innocence.”35 The Reid Manual also defends the use of “outright lies concerning the existence of evidence”36 by assuring law enforcement that the practice is legal and “routinely uph[e]ld”37 under the Supreme Court’s “totality of the circumstances” standard."
The entire article can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/