Cases of criminal sexual conduct and sex crimes sometimes involve clients that the police claim confessed and admitted the crime. It is hard for people who are not used to dealing with the police and their advanced interrogation techniques to understand how a person could confess to a crime they did not commit. For this reason, this type of evidence is very strong for the prosecution and studies confirm that juries are swayed it.
The fact is, however, 25% of criminal convictions are overturned by DNA evidence even though the case involved a confession. This is true according to the Innocence Project, which monitors cases where convicted felons are later exonerated by DNA evidence. False confessions occur frequently in cases of criminal sexual conduct and sex crimes, the area of law our firm focuses on.
You may be wondering the answer to my original question - why would someone confess if they did not commit a crime? The Innocence Project has an article on their web page titled False Confessions and has a section about why innocent people confess. Some of the reasons include coercion, mental impairment, misunderstanding the situation and duress. After working on several criminal sexual conduct cases, we can tell you that it happens more frequently than you would imagine. Most of our clients charged with sex crimes and criminal sexual conduct are facing the legal system for the first time. Many do not know how the police are trained to elicit statements from suspects - sometimes in the most deceitful and misleading ways. Remember, the police are used to dealing with suspects who are purposefully uncooperative. Therefore, they have learned techniques like the Reid technique designed to elicit confessions. Many times, the tactics are used so well that innocent defendants will actually confess entirely to crimes they did not commit.
One solution to properly determine the validity of a confession is to make tape recording mandatory. In Michigan, confessions of sex crimes and other criminal sexual conduct cases do not require mandatory tape recording. This, in our opinion, is terribly unfair to the defendant; especially considering the weight juries give to evidence of confessions.
If in fact a confession is obtained without force, coercion, duress, etc. there is no reason proper interrogation techniques and the confession should not be shown to the jury. Recording helps make sure that the police and prosecutors are obtaining true confessions and it makes sure that the truly guilty are more likely to be the ones convicted.
In an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the benefits of a tape recording are explained:
[quote]A recording provides a clear record of what questions were asked and what answers were provided. In the case of a video recording, the suspect’s physical condition and demeanor during questioning are also visible. A properly recorded and conducted confession is nearly unassailable.[/quote]
The Innocence Project has a video that supports why tape-recording confessions is the best practice.
While some states are starting to mandate that confessions be tape recorded, Michigan does not require it at this time. Despite this, the Law Offices of Shannon M. Smith understands why false confessions happen, especially in sex crimes and cases of criminal sexual conduct and are prepared to defend even the most seemingly worst confessions. In fact, through our techniques, a jury will see exactly why a false confession was not taped and that in all likelihood it is because the police are acting deceptively.