(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.