Many people who have never been involved to any material degree with the criminal justice system routinely posit confidence in the utterances of criminal authorities citing certain alleged truths and absolutes.
To wit: We said he's guilty, and he's guilty.
To many members of the general public in Wisconsin and across the United States, a definitive declaration of guilt stressed by police officers or a prosecutor spells a slam-dunk certainty of wrongdoing.
And if the defendant said that he -- or she -- actually committed an alleged crime, what's left to resolve other than the ready whereabouts of an empty prison cell?
We ask our readers to consider this: According to a study authored by the national Innocence Project, far more prisoners than generally assumed languishing behind bars are being unjustly deprived of their freedom.
Specifically, and as we note in an article on our website at the Milwaukee area criminal defense firm of Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C., "in one out of four cases where defendants incriminated themselves, confessed or pled guilty to a crime, DNA testing proved they did not commit the crime."
Isn't that a flatly shocking finding? And given the dire outcome of many sentencing pronouncements, does it not require that flat dismissal of an innocence claim be supplanted by an open-minded willingness to hear out an individual who contends that he or she falsely confessed to a crime following a police interrogation?
Here's an obvious question: What would drive a person to falsely confess to criminal wrongdoing?
As noted in the above-cited article, the reasons are multiple, indeed.
And they link intimately with the atmosphere of an interrogation room and what many criminal suspects perceive as the intimidating mannerisms of police questioners.
Interrogations often go on for hours, with well-trained officers employing varying techniques geared toward obtaining admissions of guilt. Suspects are often tired, scared and confused. Moreover, they are often young, mentally challenged or otherwise compromised when dealing with authority figures in a tight and foreign environment.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys know well that false-confession claims need to be carefully examined and evaluated, along with all other information and evidence that can exonerate a client or otherwise mitigate adverse criminal consequences against him or her.
With study findings confirming high numbers of inmates serving time after falsely confessing, it certainly stands to reason that credible claims of false confessions merit close and comprehensive investigation.