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Some resources on involuntary confessions

We posted yesterday about State v. John Finley, which addressed a challenge to the confession of an adult with intellectual limitations. Coincidentally, we learned today of two articles related to confessions that may interest our readers.

First, the day after the Finley decision was released, Science published this article about Saul Kassin, an expert on false confessions. Finley cited the research of Kassin and others in his brief-in-chief and reply brief.

Second, today we learned of this article about the Brendan Dassey interrogation by UW-Law School’s Michele LaVigne and Sally Miles, a speech-language pathologist. From the abstract:

The primary piece of evidence against Brendan was a “confession” cruelly extracted by law enforcement. The voluntariness of that confession was litigated in state and federal courts for over a dozen years. Tragically, most of the courts, including the final Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals en banc majority, were completely oblivious to fact that Brendan’s had the kind of severe communication and language impairment which would have left him helpless against the out-of-control interviewing style used by law enforcement. This article examines what the courts overlooked.

Finally, while it was filed some time ago, this amicus brief by The Innocence Network is worth reading if you’re challenging a confession on voluntariness grounds. In the appeal in which it was filed the court of appeals held the defendant’s Miranda waiver was not knowing and intelligent, as the interrogating officer read the warnings so fast they were incomprehensible, especially to a person with a low IQ and difficulty following verbal information; having invalidated the waiver, the court didn’t reach the defendant’s separate voluntariness challenge. (The court’s decision is per curiam, so it may NOT be cited, not even for persuasive value. See Rule 809.23(3)(b)).

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Ellen Henak June 18, 2019, 6:29 am

    Note that Saul Kassin’s work was cited multiple times in the defendant’s brief in State v. Finley. While it is a great resource, it is no panacea.

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