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September 26, 2013

False confessions

by Dan Rodriguez

The work of our Center for Wrongful Convictions and Center for Wrongful Convictions of Youth was highlighted in an insightful article published yesterday on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange website.

Beginning with the unhappy case of the “Englewood Four,” Gary Gately wrote about why juvenile suspects confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Juveniles are particularly vulnerable to coercive interrogations and there is a growing body of work to back that up: “The National Registry of Exonerations, put together by Northwestern University Law School and University of Michigan Law School, showed 38 percent of youths who were convicted and later cleared had given false confessions, compared with 11 percent of adults.”

Northwestern Law professors, alumni, and students, are on the front lines of this battle every day, and have been for many years. Due in large part to their tireless efforts, law enforcement and the judiciary are starting to change the way they handle juvenile suspects.

For additional information on this important subject, I urge you to read “False Confessions Dog Teens,” which was published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, or “In juvenile justice, kids need protection from false confessions,” which was published in the Christian Science Monitor in late August.

Please join me in thanking the professors, alumni, and students of the Northwestern Law School Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth for the many contributions they have made—often, against long odds—to building a more equitable criminal justice system.

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