Exoneree’s False Confession Could Prevent Compensation


Douglas Warney was released from a New York prison in 2006 after serving more than nine years for a murder he did not commit. Post-conviction DNA testing on fingernail clippings from the victim and blood at the crime scene excluded Warney and matched another inmate who subsequently confessed and said he acted alone.

More than four years later, Warney is still waiting to be compensated for his wrongful conviction.

With an eighth-grade education and a history of mental health issues, Warney falsely confessed to the 1996 murder. Despite inconsistencies between his confession and the crime, he was found guilty. 

After he was exonerated, Warney brought a civil lawsuit against the state for wrongful conviction and imprisonment, but the Court of Claims and an intermediate appeals court threw out his lawsuit ruling that he was unlikely to prevail because he confessed to the crime. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Warney has asked New York’s top court to reinstate his case against the state.

“If his entire interrogation had been videotaped he never would have been convicted,” attorney Peter Neufeld said. His client had been diagnosed with AIDS-related dementia and had an IQ of 68. “The only way he could have gotten those details was if police fed them to him during the interrogation.”

The electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions and police coercion tactics.

Court of Claims Judge Renee Minarik dismissed the lawsuit based on briefs and the state’s dismissal motion, Neufeld said. “She never even allowed us discovery, even though our guy was unquestionably innocent.”

Over 500 jurisdictions nationwide, including the states of Alaska, Minnesota and Illinois, regularly record police interrogations.

Read the full story.

Read more about Doug Warney’s case.

Learn about false confessions and mandatory recording of interrogations.

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