Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Brendan Dassey: False confessions; Making a Murderer; Douglas Starr, co-director of the graduate program in science journalism at Boston University, asks whether the U.S. Supreme Court could help address the problem of false confession, in The New Yorker... "This month, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to review the case of Brendan Dassey, the Wisconsin man who, as a teen-ager, confessed to the 2005 rape and murder of a young photographer named Teresa Halbach. Dassey’s videotaped confession to police, portions of which were included in the 2015 Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer,” bore so many hallmarks of coercion that, after the documentary aired, hundreds of thousands of viewers signed petitions calling for his pardon. In 2016, Dassey’s attorneys, arguing that his confession was both false and involuntary, convinced a federal judge to overturn his conviction, but that ruling was later reversed by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. At present, Dassey continues to serve the life sentence he received following his initial conviction—one that was entirely based on his confession, with no physical evidence linking him to the crime. After the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, Dassey’s attorneys filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. In some ways, the issues at stake in the case are overdue for review."

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This Blog is interested in false confessions because of the disturbing number of exonerations in the USA, Canada and multiple other jurisdictions throughout the world, where, in the absence of incriminating forensic evidence the conviction is based on self-incrimination – and because of the growing body of  scientific research showing how vulnerable suspects   are to widely used interrogation methods  such as  the notorious ‘Reid Technique.’

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "According to attorneys from the Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA evidence to exonerate wrongfully convicted people, more than a quarter of all exonerated people were originally convicted following false confessions. Juveniles are particularly susceptible to offering false confessions, as are people with intellectual disabilities. Dassey’s case could provide some much needed attention to the subject of police interrogations. When interviewing a suspect, most police officers in the U.S. rely on some version of the Reid Technique—a method that has been denounced by many psychologists and jurists as outdated and coercive, as I detailed in this magazine, in 2013. And, even if the Reid Technique weren’t itself seen as a problem, much of the training that officers receive is informal, and happens on the job. The result is that the quality of interrogation in any given police department depends almost entirely on the individual police officers’ experience."