Missed one: false confessions.
Most of us are familiar with certain legal, psychologically coercive interrogation techniques that elicit false confessions - like bold face lies from detectives (“we found your DNA on the knife”), as well as ones that fall under police misconduct like lengthy interrogations without food or water, pursuing custodial interviews with juveniles without an interested guardian present or physical abuse, but we shouldn’t let uneducated juries slip under the radar when speaking of wrongful convictions and confessions. Some of the findings juries come up with despite reason, evidence or just common sense, are outrageous.
Shockingly, there are times when a confession even trumps irrefutable scientific physical evidence
. Kassin notes that there are 19 cases on record — and perhaps many more — where there is a confession followed by DNA that contradicts that confession. One South Carolina case, where he was an expert witness, was featured on “Dateline” last July. Billy Wayne Cope was accused of murdering his 12 year old daughter, Amanda. He had been isolated for three days and interrogated. Transcripts of the interrogation show that he denied killing his daughter 650 times. He was told he failed a lie detector test that he in fact had asked for. Ultimately, he confessed to committing the murder. The lab results, which came back several weeks later, showed that the girl was also sexually assaulted and the semen and saliva did not match Cope. Sometime after that, the DNA was run through CODIS, a computer software program that operates local, state and national databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence and missing persons. A match was made to a known sex offender, James Sanders, who was in the area. Yet Cope was prosecuted and convicted anyway, as a coconspirator with Sanders, even though Sanders had no idea who Cope was. That was six years ago. Cope remains imprisoned. [via
I sat down with Saul Kassin when he first came to John Jay to talk about his work, he’s a long time major player in this area. Here he is talking about the ramifications of false confessions at the Vera Institute. Definitely worth a watch.
img: California Innocence Project via MJ