Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond


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The defendant may waive effectuation of these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. The most significant differences, however, are that: 1 although the erroneous introduction of any statement obtained in violation of a federal constitutional guarantee is subject to the harmless-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard or review, the reviewing court is required to exercise extreme caution in determining whether the introduction of a full, involuntary confession was harmless under that standard; and 2 an involuntary confession may not be used at trial for any purpose, whereas a confession obtained in violation of Miranda may be used to impeach the defendant if he or she takes the witness stand, even if the Miranda violation was intentional.

Markham , 49 Cal. Consequently, the procedural rule of Jimenez accomplishes what a rule founded on independent state constitutional grounds, in the wake of Proposition 8, cannot -- exclusion of relevant evidence based upon a standard of proof of voluntariness more stringent than that mandated by the federal Constitution. We have explained that the intent of the electorate in passing Proposition 8 was to curtail the exclusion of relevant evidence based upon independent state grounds, except as required by the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitution of the United States requires no more than that the voluntariness of confessions or admissions be proved by a preponderance of the evidence at trial. Section 28 d establishes that standard as the rule in California. Fulminante , U. We thus disagree with the Justices who have a contrary view. The majority today abandons what until now the Court has regarded as the axiomatic [proposition] that a defendant in a criminal case is deprived of due process of law if his conviction is founded, in whole or in part, upon an involuntary confession, without regard for the truth or falsity of the confession, and even though there is ample evidence aside from the confession to support the conviction..

Today, a majority of the Court, without any justification, overrules this vast body of precedent without a word and in so doing dislodges one of the fundamental tenets of our criminal justice system. The prejudicial effect of such error is to be determined, for purposes of California law, under the generally applicable reasonable-probability test embodied in article VI, section 13, of the California Constitution.. Of course, because the Watson standard is less demanding than the harmless-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard mandated by the applicable federal constitutional authorities.

See U. Jenkins , F. In fact, Chief Justice Rehnquist noted the propriety of applying harmless-error analysis to the facts of Fulminante by emphasizing, '[t]his is especially true in a case such as this one where there are no allegations of physical violence on behalf of the police. Massie , 19 Cal. Among the factors to be considered are the crucial element of police coercion; the length of the interrogation; its location; its continuity as well as the defendant's maturity; education; physical condition; and mental health. On appeal, the trial court's findings as to the circumstances surrounding the confession are upheld if supported by substantial evidence, but the trial court's finding as to the voluntariness of the confession is subject to independent review.

In determining whether a confession was voluntary, [t]he question is whether defendant's choice to confess was not essentially free because his will was overborne. McClary , 20 Cal. Taken together, we think it fair to conclude from the record that the threats of punishment and the promises of leniency echoed in the continuum between the two conversations to a degree which renders her statements in the second interview involuntary and inadmissible.

Williams , 49 Cal. He had experience in the criminal justice system. Defendant understood his right to counsel and to remain silent, but waived those rights. He effectively parried the officers' accusations and questions, as noted by the trial court. He did not appear upset by the officers' reference to the death penalty. As previously noted, the officer told appellant that he 'did not want to see [appellant's girlfriend] get into trouble. The aspects of the interrogation noted above -- the untruths, the threat of being tried as an adult, the wedding ring parable, and the reference to appellant's girlfriend 'getting in trouble'-- are not commendable.

However, even if these aspects together were insufficient to demonstrate that appellant's will was overborne, we would nonetheless conclude that appellant's confession was involuntary. This is because the police repeatedly suggested that appellant would be treated more leniently if he confessed. Such promises plainly render a confession inadmissible. Tingle , F. We think it equally clear that such would be the conclusion which Tingle could reasonably be expected to draw from the agent's use of this technique.

The relationship between parent and child embodies a primordial and fundamental value of our society. When law enforcement officers deliberately prey upon the maternal instinct and inculcate fear in a mother that she will not see her child in order to elicit 'cooperation,' they exert the 'improper influence' proscribed by Malloy. Esqueda , 17 Cal. He, of course, received no rest during his processing and received little, if any, respite from the constant police pressure to confess.

Esqueda was hysterical at the time the interviewing started. He had been drinking and was obviously distraught. By Valle's own account, Esqueda was emotionally distraught and exhausted, yet he and the other police detectives unremittingly pressured their prey until he finally yielded. Jablonski , 37 Cal. Carrington , 47 Cal. When police comments are not 'calculated to exploit a particular psychological vulnerability of [the] defendant,' however, and 'no acute religious anxiety or sense of guilt was apparent from prior questioning,' appeals to religion are unlikely to be a motivating cause of a defendant's subsequent confession.

Here, Detective Lindsay's remarks were not calculated to exploit anxieties or vulnerabilities that might have arisen had defendant held strong religious beliefs. Religion was not discussed in prior questioning, and defendant stated no particular religious affiliation. Moreover, although the interrogation was lengthy, defendant exhibited no sign of being in a particularly fragile mental state that would render her vulnerable to manipulation by reference to religion.

Musselwhite , 17 Cal. Here, however, the circumstances in which the statements were made by the detectives to defendant, as well as the statements themselves, fall short of what is required to make out a case of prejudicial deception. Assuming it is true that current laser technology is incapable of successfully lifting identifiable fingerprints from a corpse, it does not follow that telling a murder suspect in the course of questioning that his prints had been lifted from the neck of the homicide victim 'caused' him to confess.

The link between inducement and statement in this case, in other words, falls short of being 'proximate. Cupp , U. Jones , 17 Cal. The detective implied at various times that he knew more than he did or could prove more than he could.

Such deception regarding the evidence was permissible, for it was not of a type reasonably likely to procure an untrue statement. Mays , Cal. We feel confident our courts are capable of deciding voluntariness without a bright line making all documents automatically coercive.

While we might view some fake documents as coercive, e. Since the graph merely showed squiggly lines with handwritten notations such as 'intend to lie' and is useless as evidence without testimony from a certified polygraph examiner, there is no risk of its presence in the record being mistaken for a true polygraph test somewhere down the road.

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Considering the tangible graph paper as one of the totality of circumstances, we still conclude defendant's statements were voluntary and not coerced. Thereafter, he was lied to about Ana making dying declarations accusing him of the crime, about Ana's head being burned by gunfire, about finding fingerprints on Ana's neck, about his fingerprints being found on the bullet that killed Ana, about a witness by a dumpster saying Esqueda was the only person to go into the apartment that night, about being investigated for the murder of another person he had known on the streets, and about the gunshot residue evidence showing he shot Ana.

Valle and Penalosa both pleaded with Esqueda about his family, Ana and his children. They, and Hill, questioned and appealed to his manhood, his religion, and his Hispanic heritage. They suggested various mitigated and non-mitigated scenarios again and again. While this by itself could be considered merely pointing out the consequences which would 'naturally flow from a truthful and honest course of conduct,' here the detectives went too far.

Ramos , Cal. Verlich testified the statement regarding benefit in the judicial process immediately was qualified by the further admonition that Verlich would advise the district attorney of Ramos's level of cooperation, but the district attorney would determine what consideration Ramos would receive in return for his cooperation.

Thus, Verlich's offers of intercession with the district attorney amounted to truthful implications that [Ramos's] cooperation might be useful in later plea bargain negotiations. Because Verlich only pointed out the benefit that might naturally flow from a truthful and honest course of conduct, Verlich's remarks did not constitute a promise of leniency. Thomkins , U. Thompkins did not invoke his right to remain silent and stop the questioning. Understanding his rights in full, he waived his right to remain silent by making a voluntary statement to the police.

The police, moreover, were not required to obtain a waiver of Thompkins's right to remain silent before interrogating him. Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent-which, counterintuitively, requires them to speak. At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded. Psychiatry Law Law Rev. Exonerees told police much more than just 'I did it.

Often those details included reportedly 'inside information' that only the rapist or murderer could have known. We now know that each of these people was innocent and was not at the crime scene. Where did those details, recounted at length at trial and recorded in confession statements, come from? We often cannot tell what happened from reading the written records. In many cases, however, police likely disclosed those details during interrogations by telling exonerees how the crime happened.

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Police may not have done so intentionally or recklessly; the study materials do not provide definitive information about the state of mind of the officers. Police may have been convinced the suspect was guilty and may not have realized that the interrogation had been mishandled. The Court abandoned its decades-long focus on reliability of confessions.

Instead, the Court adopted a deferential voluntariness test examining the 'totality of the circumstances' of a confession. The Court has since acknowledged 'litigation over voluntariness tends to end with the finding of a valid waiver. The Court supplemented the voluntariness test with the requirement that police utter the Miranda warnings, which if properly provided, as the Court puts it, give police 'a virtual ticket of admissibility. All lacked counsel before confessing. Most were vulnerable juveniles or mentally disabled individuals. Most were subjected to long and sometimes highly coercive interrogations.

Nor is it surprising that they failed to obtain relief under the Court's deferential voluntariness inquiry, especially where the confessions were powerfully-though falsely-corroborated. The Court has noted that 'the coercion inherent in custodial interrogation blurs the line between voluntary and involuntary statements, and thus heightens the risk' of constitutional violations. These false confessions shed light on dangers of coercion during interrogations, but they also provide examples of a different problem in which the line blurred is that between truth and fiction.

George C. Questioning Capital Punishment. James R. Paul Finkelman. Criminal Justice in the United States, — Elizabeth Dale. Stand Your Ground. Caroline Light. The Supreme Court vs. The Constitution. Gerald Walpin. Justice in America. Cheney Mason. Daniel J. David M. The Death Penalty in the United States. Louis J. Paul Bergman. Is the Death Penalty Dying? Austin Sarat.

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Spheres of Liberty. Michael Kammen. Reversal of Fortune. Alan Dershowitz. The Judiciary. Henry J.

Law of Evidence. Nicola Monaghan. Thirteen Ways to Steal a Bicycle. Stuart P. The Rope, The Chair, and the Needle. James W. Sexual Injustice. Marc Stein. Death Penalty Cases. Barry Latzer. The Punitive Turn. Deborah E. Blackstone's Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook. Tony Cook. Pie in the Sky. Kenneth Lougee. Clive Harfield.

Supremely Partisan. James D. Arbitrary Justice. Angela J. Equality under the Constitution. Judith A. Blackstone's Custody Officers' Manual. Huw Smart. The Response to Prostitution in the Progressive Era. Mark Thomas Connelly.

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Public Order: Law and Practice. My own experience as a public defender has been that many suspects make statements during the process of police interrogation and are surprised to learn thereafter that they had a constitutional right to remain silent or to have an attorney present during questioning. This pattern suggests that Miranda warnings as currently delivered by the police are not an effective means of informing suspects both of the existence and extent of their privilege against self-incrimination and of their right to consult with counsel before they make any statements.

Their objective is to obtain a confession, and therefore it is unlikely that they will fully inform the suspect of her right to counsel or her right to remain silent, or dispel misconceptions about those rights. Moreover, when a suspect is confronted by the police, whether on the street, at the police station, or at home, there appears to be an almost irresistible impulse to respond to the accusations, notwithstanding the Miranda warnings.

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Suspects generally hope that by responding they will in some way improve their position. Suspects, generally unprepared for the trickery or outright deceit the police may use, are often coerced into confessing or incriminating themselves once they have waived their rights and agreed to talk. Even those who initially invoke their right to silence and request the assistance of counsel face pressure to waive those rights. Indigent suspects are likely to be told that counsel will not be available for hours or, in some jurisdictions, days.

One expected consequence of the failure of Miranda to protect a person targeted for a criminal interrogation against incriminating him or herself, is that it would be ineffective at protecting an innocent person from falsely confessing to a crime. That is more than a logical supposition, but a fact. The phenomena of false confessions has been explored in a number of legal and lay articles, and books over the past several decades.

The crux of the article is identifying how and why a false confession can have a causal role in a wrongful conviction. Part I discusses from a historical perspective, the study of wrongful convictions and the prominent role that false confessions have played in such studies. Part I also discusses the development of DNA testing and its role in renewing interest in the study of wrongful convictions. Part II highlights the connection between police interrogation methods and false confessions, focusing principally on the social psychology of false confessions and research on the causes and consequences of false confessions.

Part III discusses the methodology used to compile the false confessions that make up the database of case studies analyzed in the article, and the limitations of the data. Part IV sets forth the quantitative findings gleaned from the false confession cases included in the article. Part V takes a more qualitative approach to the false confession data by highlighting some of the common themes and trends that emerge from the cases studied, and describing illustrative cases in some detail.

Part VI makes three policy recommendations that would be expected to reduce incidences of false confession.

It also highlights some recent positive developments that suggest reforms designed to reduce the frequency of false confessions may stand a better chance of being implemented now than ever before. The first study in this country that attempted to quantify the causes of wrongful convictions was Miscarriages of Justice in Potentially Capital Cases by Professors Hugo Bedau and Michael Radelet.

Their Stanford Law Review article analyzed cases of wrongful conviction from to A confession is considered damning evidence of guilt, and the wrongful conviction of those people was based wholly or in part on his or her false confession. One of the prime values of an exoneration based on DNA evidence as contrasted with witness recantation, disclosure of prosecution concealed exculpatory evidence, etc. Thus those exonerations underscore the realness of the phenomena, while at the same time undercutting the criticism of naysayers.

In the words of Drizin and Leo:.

Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond

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