News 05.10.11

Prosecutors Would Block Review of Confession Cases

Prosecutors across North Carolina have joined together in an attempt to prevent possible false confession cases from being submitted to the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission, which examines wrongful conviction claims.

In approximately 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned with DNA evidence nationwide, defendants made false confessions, admissions or statements to law enforcement officials.  Of the cases submitted to the Inquiry Commission since 2007, almost 30% involved guilty pleas, reported the Winston-Salem Journal.

“The innocence commission is a very, very unique entity, and it should not be used as a fail-safe for all the other problems in our system,” said Peg Dorer, executive director of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys. “If they are just going to start picking up all the cases that fall through the cracks, well, that’s not their purpose.”

Innocence and Justice Clinic at the Wake Forest University School of Law Co-director Carol Turowski disagrees, saying that all cases should be considered by the commission.

“There have been a number of people who accepted pleas who were innocent,” Turowski said. “I don’t think that the innocence commission should eliminate cases involving pleas. People take plea bargains because they are scared of losing jury trials. They might suffer more serious consequences such as a longer sentence.”

For many reasons – including mental health issues and aggressive law enforcement tactics – innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit.


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How False Confessions Happen

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