A total of 166 people were exonerated for wrongful convictions in the country last year, setting a new record for the highest number of people absolved in a year's time, according to a summary by the National Registry of Exonerations. Approximately 25% of these convictions were advanced by false confessions, many of which were provided by youth.
Any case where the judicial system has failed to uncover the truth is unfortunate, but in cases involving minors, the repercussions are devastating. Juveniles with convictions are faced with limited options and opportunities that will linger on after adolescence. Their accessibility to services such as government aid becomes annulled, while their criminal record serves as a hindrance to potential employment opportunities. With all that is at stake, it's imperative that law enforcement and investigators go above and beyond to ensure that a minor is charged justly, even in the event of a confession.
Many people assume that a case is closed when a confession is made. Some figure that there is nothing more to prove after a person admits to committing a crime. But a large number of cases involving exonerated persons and l studies say otherwise. Data compiled by the American Psychological Association suggests that false confessions played a role in approximately 38% of exonerations for crimes allegedly committed by minors. With these alarming rates at play, many researchers have posed several questions: Why are minors falsely confessing to crimes they don't commit? And why so frequently?
Analysts cite the youth's perception and response to legal authority as a contributor. Minors may create a fabricated statement because they feel that is what investigators want to hear. A child's misconception of the degree of severity a crime carries is also a factor. When a child undergoes a grueling interrogation, they may be solely interested in getting it over with. They are not mature or knowledgeable enough to be aware of the long-term effects associated with a conviction. But one of the most crucial reasons for a minor's increased susceptibility to falsely confessing is that standard interrogation tactics are intended for adults, not children. The infamous case of Wisconsin teen Brendan Dassey exemplifies the common misuse of interrogation practices by legal authorities.
The intellectually challenged teen was sentenced in 2007 to mandatory life in prison for the murder and sexual assault of woman. Dassey's attorneys vehemently argued that the 16-year-old had been coerced into admitting he had tortured, raped, murdered and mutilated the body of Teresa Halbach after an arduous four-hour interrogation, but he was still convicted. His conviction was overturned just last year after a judge had found that the taped interrogation had been coerced.
Cases like Dassey's have started many conversations about ways to reform the interrogative process for minors. Only 20 states require the recording of custodial interrogations; Washington is not one of them.
If your child has been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, you should consult with an experienced attorney immediately. Call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.