The recent exoneration of Damon Thibodeaux in Louisiana and overturned conviction of Richard Lapointe in Connecticut are two new reminders of the devastating effects of false confessions induced by overzealous interrogators.
Thibodeaux was sentenced to death and spent 15 years in prison for the murder of his half-cousin before his exoneration by DNA testing on September 28. Lapointe, a mentally disabled dishwasher convicted of murder in 1989 was granted a new trial on On October 1. Both men claimed they were manipulated into falsely confessing to the crimes.
While Thibodeaux is now a free man, Lapointe still faces the possibility of a new trial. The state’s top appeals court only ruled that prosecutors had denied him access to notes by a police detective that tend to support his alibi defense. But longtime innocence advocate Donald S. Connery makes a compelling case of Lapointe’s innocence in this opinion column.
Forensic psychologist Karen Franklin gives an excellent explanation of how a false confession “contaminates everything and everyone in touches — from the prosecutor, the judge, and even the suspect’s own attorney” on her informative blog here.