The Supreme Court has upheld a confession that the accused maintains was coerced. The man confessed to sexually assaulting a friend’s daughter in a situation where many people might do the same. The man was brought in for questioning, but was not “in custody,” and had not been read his rights. He was interrogated for 80minutes, in which the officers involved “overstated” the evidence against him and attempted to give incentives for him to confess. According to the journal for the state’s bar, the officers told the man he would not be able to make any phone calls — implying he would be unable to contact a lawyer.
Apparently, the officers implied there was much more evidence against the man than there actually was. They also told him that a felony conviction would not have an adverse affect on his employment. Essentially, the man argued, the officers twisted his arm, resulting in a forced confession. The man’s trial lasted four days, and he was convicted. The man took the case to appeal, where it was found that even if his confession was involuntary, the admission of this information into the trial was a “harmless error.” The case then went to the Supreme Court.
Cases like this one present a serious concern for defense attorneys, that is, the treatment of those accused of crimes while in police custody. Many people are not aware of their legal rights and so they believe officers when they tell them things, such as whether or not they can call an attorney. These are serious concerns, and may result in forced confessions and wrongful convictions.
Source: State Bar of Wisconsin, “In Criminal Case, Supreme Court Upholds Confession Despite Alleged Police Coercion,” Joe Forward, Jan. 9, 2013