Category Archives: False confessions

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Most Brooklyn wrongful convictions preventable, analyst says

Examination of the 19 Brooklyn Conviction Review Unit exoneree cases suggests that most of the wrongful convictions were highly preventable, City University of New York doctoral student Rakiya King says in a Viewpoints Column for The Crime Report. You can read her analysis here.


“Brendan Dassey: A True Story of a False Confession” Video and CLE Course Available on Youtube


Brenda Dassey was convicted of murder in 2007 after falsely confessing.

Brendan Dassey: A True Story of a False Confession Video and CLE Course (Illinois CLE credit only) is now available on Youtube. Last month, Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider of the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth gave a presentation to a packed Thorne Auditorium at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago, in which they used their client Brendan Dassey’s case—featured in the Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer—as a lens for the study of police interrogation.

Drizin and Nirider used footage from Dassey’s videotaped interrogations to highlight the way certain errors by law enforcement can elicit false confessions. Following their presentation, the Honorable Michael K. Browne, a Hennepin County, Minnesota judge, led a panel discussion with Drizin, Nirider, Dr. Antoinette Kavanaugh, a forensic psychologist, and Robert J. Milan, a former assistant state’s attorney and current managing director at Stroz Friedberg.


Northwestern Law Professors Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin

The CWCY—a joint project of the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Children and Family Justice Center— was created to address the unique problems faced by wrongfully accused youth, by spearheading exoneration efforts in cases like Dassey’s, as well as advocating for criminal justice reforms aimed at improving juvenile interrogation methods.


The April 6, 2016, presentation and the panel discussion that followed are available as an on-demand continuing legal education (CLE) course in the state of Illinois. The CLE fee is $150, and proceeds will support the work of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth (CWCY). 

Comment on the Nature and State of the (US) Justice System

While writing the latest post about Jack McCullough‘s exoneration, and while reading Courtney Bisbee‘s latest filing with the US District Court for Arizona, I got to reflecting on my experiences with the justice system over the past eight years, and I thought I would share some of my (unvarnished) observations. Clearly, this will be very editorial. It will probably help to understand my comments to know that I am not an attorney. I am an engineer by training, and that’s what I did for my entire working career – until I started doing innocence work pro bono. So I see the justice system with the naivete’ of someone who is an “outsider” and is not a functionary of the system; but I do see the system as someone who has spent his entire life founded in objective truth and logic and fact. Again, this article will be editorial in nature, and represents my views and only my views. It will also be pretty bleak; however, I see no viable path to fixing the monster we’ve created over the course of multiple decades of politics and the frailties of human nature. This has been bottled up inside me for some time, and the cork has finally popped. And just for reference, my definition of the justice system includes the law, legislators, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the police.

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Lack of understanding, overconfidence lead to investigative errors, researcher says

Why do police make the same false assumptions and continue to use outdated investigative techniques even after the mounting number of exonerations proves them wrong?

British researchers Julia Shaw and Chloe Chaplin conducted a survey to find out. They discovered that police officers are just as ill-informed on important policing issues as everyone else but “exhibited higher confidence in their judgements than the general public, making them more confidently wrong.” You can read Shaw’s examination of this problem here.



Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Another Indigenous Miscarriage of Justice for Australia?

It is a well established fact that indigenous populations across the world are more likely to be ill treated by their justice system. Australia has for decades acknowledged the systemic problems that their Aboriginal people face when coming into contact with the legal system. Abuses, deaths in custody, wrongful convictions, all are more likely to have Indigenous people as victims. Now it seems there is yet another miscarriage of justice to be overturned by the appeal courts.

The brutal beating of a young white man, Josh Warneke on a highway in 2010 led to the arrest of Gene Gibson. From the remote Kiwirrkurra Aboriginal Community, Gibson pleaded guilty to manslaughter, after murder charges were downgraded after the video recordings of his police interrogation were ruled inadmissible when they had been conducted without an interpreter or lawyer present. Indeed the entire police investigation  was the subject of an official inquiry, which led to 11 police officers facing action over their conduct. Gibson was sentenced to 7 and a half years in prison. Gibson’s lawyers are now seeking an appeal after more evidence was uncovered. Read more here….

Justice concerns spark Warneke killer appeal.

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Anatomy of a Confession – The Debra Milke Case

Gary Stuart, author and Professor of Law at Arizona State University, has just published a book about the Debra Milke case.    See our previous post here:

anatomy of confession

“Anatomy of a Confession is the story of the 1990 murder trial of Debra Milke. Two men—Debra’s boyfriend at the time and a friend of his—murdered Debra’s four year-old son in the Arizona desert. One of them implicated the boy’s mother. Even before Debra was questioned, the police hung a guilty tag on her. Debra Milke spent twenty-three years on death row for the murder of her four year-old son based solely on a confession she never gave. This is also the story of Detective Armando Saldate, his history of extracting forced confessions, and the role the Phoenix Police Department played in the cover-up and misconduct in its handling of the Milke investigation. Anatomy of a Confession is a vivid and shocking reminder of what America’s vaunted presumption of innocence is all about.”

It’s available on Amazon here.

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Prosecutors Oppose New Trial for Melissa Calusinski in SBS Case

We’ve previously posted about the Melissa Calusinski case in Lake County, IL here. It would seem to clearly be a case of a coerced false confession, combined with bad medical “science.”

Lake County State’s Attorney, Michael Nerheim, has already declined to have his so-called “conviction integrity unit” review the case.

Now, despite the fact that the Lake County Coroner officially changed the cause of death from homicide to undetermined, and despite the fact that newly discovered X-ray evidence shows that the child had experienced previous head trauma, the prosecution is opposing a request for new trial by Calusinski’s attorney.

Why are we not surprised? See the Lake County Daily Herald story here.

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