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March 13, 2007

Class readings on "False and Coerced Confessions and the Death Penalty" (for just before after Spring Break)

Though I doubt we will get to these materials before Spring Break, I wanted to post now the materials and ideas that Caitlin, Mags and Kelly have for us to explore after we examine race and the death penalty (which should be prompting more blog buzz here).


False and Coerced Confessions and the Death Penalty

False and coerced confessions present a two-fold problem: the wrong person is convicted of a crime and the true perpetrator remains free.  Thus, justice is not served. 

We want our topic to open the class up to the idea that confessions can be derived because of other reasons. Perhaps it has been suggested to the Defendant that if he confesses, he will be spared the death penalty.  Perhaps the Defendant is undereducated or has a low IQ, and confesses just to appease the police.

The following article provides insight into false confessions. It is co-written by a professor of sociology at Berkley that is an expert in the field of false/coerced confessions.  Please use the citation to pull the article on-line: 88 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 429 (Winter 1998) Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology "THE CONSEQUENCES OF FALSE CONFESSIONS: DEPRIVATIONS OF LIBERTY AND MISCARRIAGES OF JUSTICE IN THE AGE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INTERROGATION" by Richard J. Ofshe & Richard A. Leo.

In addition, this link provides a brief description of a case where a man falsely confessed to avoid the death penalty, in exchange for a life sentence.

March 13, 2007 in Student-assigned readings | Permalink


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I just wanted to note that in the death sentence that was just handed down in Florida, the Defendant's confession to police was held to be inadmissible because he confessed after he had asked for counsel. Our class on confessions and the death penalty will address the law surrounding confessions and how they are properly or improperly gotten from a Defendant, so I thought this was interesting and relevant.

An excerpt from the article with the link to it below:
"Jurors on Wednesday recommended the death penalty for John Evander Couey, who was found guilty last week of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
The majority of the jury -- 10 in favor of death, 2 against it -- rendered the decision about 5:30 p.m. ET. . .
His confession helped lead investigators to the girl's body, but a judge ruled the confession was inadmissible in court because he had asked for a lawyer the day before he told police he committed the crime."


Posted by: Caitlin C | Mar 14, 2007 6:40:31 PM

Kenneth Biros lives to fight another day in court thanks to the US Supreme Court. Of note (and to their credit), new Governor Ted and new State AG Marc Dann were prepared to allow the execution to proceed.

Biros was convicted of killing and dismembering Tami Engstrom and spreading her body parts in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Originally scheduled to be executed at 10 a.m. Tuesday, on Monday evening, Biros ate what was to be his last meal: a cheese pizza, salad, cherry pie, raspberry ice cream, coffee, Doritos and Pepsi. No word on if the pizza was DiGiorno or delivery. He later read a book (reportedly "Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?"), watched some television (reportedly Monday Night RAW), and debated the relevancy of John Rawls's "original position" and "veil of ignorance" to current political philosophy with his chaplain before turning in around 11 p.m.

Biros had won the stay because he is among the inmates who filed a suit challenging whether lethal injection is a violation of their rights against cruel and unusual punishment. The suit recently was dismissed on a timing issue, but the decision is being appealed - hence the Supreme Court blockade.

In other news, Tami Engstrom is still dead and has not recently eaten pizza. Curiously, she had been unable to appeal her method of death or dismemberment to the US Supreme Court - ironically also due to a "timing issue".

Biros has been on death row for sixteen (16) years. If it is any consolation to the Engstrom family, he did have to spend Monday night 17 steps away from the execution chamber, adding hopefully at least a little discomfort.

“Biros is such a coward, he is such a total coward. He doesn’t want to die and he knows he’s going to meet his maker, and his maker’s the devil, and he’s going to hell,” Ms. Engstrom’s sister, Debbie Heiss said.

“He said her last words for him before he throttled her were, ‘My family’s going to hunt you down and kill you,’” Mrs. Heiss said. “That’s what I’d like to think we are doing.”

Next in line is James Filiaggi of Lorain County. Filiaggi, who is on death row for murdering his ex-wife (twice shooting her in the head before trying to kill her step-father as well) in 1994, is scheduled to be put to death April 24. He is not one of the nine inmates in the lethal injection lawsuit and does not have a court-ordered stay.

Posted by: Ben D | Mar 21, 2007 2:08:29 PM

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