It may be hard for some people to understand, but it is a very real and tragic occurrence that people admit to crimes they didn’t commit. One recent high profile example is the groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox who spent 23 years in jail for murder. The police coerced a false confession out of him during a 12-hour interrogation where he was physically abused by officers and insulted with racial slurs. The man was not cleared until modern day DNA testing of sperm found on the victim cleared the way for the man’s release in 2017.
According to FalseConfessions.org, there have been six studies since the late-‘80s documenting an estimated 250 false confessions induced by interrogations. Thirty percent of these cases involve innocent people making incriminating statements, confessing to the crime and eventually pleading guilty in court. DNA testing has become extremely helpful in exonerating defendants like the groundskeeper.
Coercion takes many forms
While the groundskeeper was punched in the face by officers during interrogation, defendants need not be beat to confess. Sometimes there is a feeling of guilt or remorse on the part of the defendant if they are charged with a sex crime that led them to make this rash and inaccurate decision. Sometimes they will confess to a crime with a lighter sentence, which enables the courts to put closure on a crime. But sometimes there no crime committed by the defendant, as was the case with the groundskeeper. Nonetheless, he was coerced into signing a confession with the promise of leniency. The judge then sentenced him to 30 years.
An attorney can help
An attorney can be extremely helpful in protecting the rights of those charged. Perhaps it is the right course of action to plea to a lesser crime, but the right attorney will aggressively protect the well-being of clients facing criminal charges like sexual assault, lessening the chance of false confession that could end up being the mistake that will haunt them for the rest of their life.