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Attorney Carilyn Ibsen's Blog

about Criminal Defense in North Carolina and South Carolina

 

Monday, December 10, 2012

But They Said They Did It

60 minutes recently had a valuable segment on false confessions. When a crime occurs, both the prosecutors and the defense attorney want to know whether the suspect made any statements implicating themselves. Even the public wants to know. The public finds comfort in knowing "Oh, they caught the guy." How many times have you heard a news story reporting a crime that ends with "X was arrested and admitted to being involved." Case closed? Crime solved? Not quite..

Many years ago as a new prosecutor at the District Attorney's Office in California, I was approached by a defense attorney and asked to dismiss a case. I remember telling the defense attorney that the defendant confessed to the crime. My comment started a long conversation between myself and a veteran defense attorney about false confessions. I don't remember the outcome of that particular case, but I took a lot away from that conversation, including having an open mind that confessions could be false.

People admit to things they didn't do. They do it for a variety of reasons- youth, immaturity, pressure and often from promises from law enforcement that they will be released from custody. It illustrates the power of law enforcement and the problems with our criminal justice system. No one disagrees that people must be held accountable for what they have done- let's just hold the correct person accountable. Just ask one of the "Central Park Five."


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