Unpublished Opinion

Saturday, June 18, 2005

In their shoes

Many people find it difficult to believe defendants when they claim that they were coerced into confessing. Having never been subjected to the overpowering sleep deprivation, the threats of violence, the tales of expected prison rape, it is inexplicable to many why someone would admit to doing something horrible when they had no part in it. Even something as horrendous as sexually assaulting and murdering your own child.

When DNA evidence cleared Kevin Fox yesterday of those crimes against his daughter, I hope people were paying attention. After a year of the media, the police, and the prosecutors already considering Fox guilty as charged and calling for the death penalty, he was finally vindicated.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to have people think that you have done something so horrendous to your own child. How will he ever regain the dignity he has lost; how many of his neighbors are still convinced of his guilt? Often a confession can trump even the most scientific evidence.

But let's talk about the "confession" for a minute. From what I have read, it sounds like all of the videotaped "confessions" I have seen. The prosecutor asks the defendant a series of leading questions and the defendant answers "yes" or "no" at the appropriate times. It is not what you see on television: the defendant saying "Yes, I did it" and then giving the exact details of the crime in his own words. It is not in his own words; it is in the prosecutors words; and the questions are specifically tailored to prove the elements of the crime; they are specifically tailored to rule out any possible defense; they are specifically tailored to put the nail in the defendant's coffin.

Often defendants who were coerced into confessing say that they would have said anything to get the police to stop the interrogation; anything to get to sleep; or eat; or use the bathroom; in the case of juveniles: anything to get to see their mom again. Even admitting to something so heinous that you could not even have imagined it, let alone actually done the crime, if you were not subjected to the police tactics.

Of course people won't learn, even from this high profile case. State's Attorney's trying to win elections will still go on witch hunts. Police will still use their horrific tactics to get what they want. The prosecutors will still sell those "confessions" to the jury as the almighty word. At least today, though, there was a bit of justice.


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