I Took A False Confession – So Don’t Tell Me It Doesn’t Happen!

(As I mentioned yesterday, I am helping ACLU of Northern California and The Justice Project to get three very important bills signed. Right now there are three bills that the California legislature has passed and are ready for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign. But he might not sign them. These bills will help stop wrongful convictions. So we are trying to get some public awareness that these bills are waiting to be signed. These bills are SB 511, SB 609 and SB 756.
Today I am guest-posting a piece by a police officer who took a false confession and knows that it really can happen. — Dave J.)

As I write this, the post-arrest recorded interview of Senator Larry Craig has hit the press, circulated around the blogosphere, and produced heated discussion among the public. The recording includes a confession to a crime that Senator Craig now says he did not commit. No doubt that tape will prove central to the consideration of Senator Craig’s claim, since it will provide incontrovertible evidence of what both he and law enforcement said.
Coincidentally, just last week the California legislature passed a bill, SB 511, which would mandate the recording of custodial interrogations to prevent wrongful convictions based upon false confessions. The bill has now been sent to Governor Schwarzenegger.
To most, falsely confessing to a crime seems counterintuitive. It is hard to understand — barring outright torture – why a sane and intelligent person would admit to a crime that he did not commit, especially if the confession could yield a lifetime prison term or even a death sentence.
As a law enforcement officer with 24 years of experience with the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. (13 of those as a homicide detective), the phenomenon always eluded me too. Until someone provided a false confession to me.

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You Could Be Wrongfully Imprisoned If Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes SB 511 and SB 609

(I am helping ACLU of Northern California and The Justice Project to get three very important bills signed. Right now there are three bills that the California legislature has passed and are ready for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign. But he might not sign them. These bills will help stop wrongful convictions. So we are trying to get some public awareness that these bills are waiting to be signed. These bills are SB 511, SB 609 and SB 756. This is another guest post toward that end. — Dave J.)
You Could Be Wrongfully Imprisoned If Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes SB 511 and SB 609
By Harold Hall
Last month, I celebrated an untraditional anniversary. August 17, 2007 marked my third year of freedom from wrongful imprisonment. I spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime I did not commit.

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Governor Schwarzenegger: Make California a Leader in Improving the Criminal Justice System

This is a guest post by John Terzano, The Justice Project

Health care reform may have stalled in California, but Governor Schwarzenegger still has a chance to make the state a leader in fixing a national problem: wrongful convictions. Three major criminal justice reform bills are now on the Governor’s desk.  The measures are designed to safeguard against wrongful convictions by making practical changes to eyewitness identification procedures, reforming the process by which confessions are attained, and regulating the use of jailhouse snitch testimony. 

With more than 200 exonerations to date in California it is critical that measures are enacted before more mistakes are made.  The governor has the ability to not only protect the innocent but enhance public safety and the integrity of California’s law enforcement by signing these important bills into law, and setting a standard for the nation.

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