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Exonerations due to false confessions a comparison of race

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Murder carries a sentence of death in some states, convicted murderers facing a death sentence have been exonerated from crimes taking place from as far back as the 1980s due to false confessions and many cases reveal racial profiling as a contributing factor. The two cases that I choose were murder cases from the late 1980s, both were sentenced to death around the same time and exoneteated around the year 2000. When making my comparison of the cases I choose to focus on race in these cases both of the gentlemen were African American around the same age.

In the first case Robert Lee Miller JR. as a 27 year old, African American male convicted of murdering an 83 year old woman and a 90 year old woman in Oklahoma City. Both women were found raped and murdered in their homes, along with the murder charge Miller was also convicted of robbery, attempt, violent, burglary/unlawdful entry but not rape of the women. A stain believed to be semen was collected at one crime scene, at the other crime scene blood, hair and saliva samples were collected. Based on testing it was determined that the suspect was a secretor with type A blood (a secretor is a person whos blood type can be identified in other body fluids.

Testing also provided an allotype, or genetic marker in the immune system, most likely linking the African American population to the crime. It is now know that racial statistics about the distribution of certain genetic markers do not correlate to a prediction of the likelihood of the perpetrator’s race. These tests resulted in a canvas of the nieghborhood requiring African American males to provide blood samples. Miller was found to be a type A secretor, which lead police to detain and conduct a 12 hour interrogation of Miller. Only half of the interrogation was recorded.

Miller was suspected of being under the influence of marijuana ciggarettes dipped in PCP, he spoke about dreams, visions, spells and hair during the interrogation. He answered questions as if he were clairvoyant and thought he was helping the police solve the crime. There were many inconsistencies in his statement and the information Miller provided came from general speculation, as well as details that were previously released in newspapers or televised crime reports. Miller also denied involvement in the crime several times during the interrogation.

In the second case Aaaron Patterson was a 25 year old African American male convicted of stabbing an elderly couple to death in Chicago. The couple was found murdered in their home, Patterson was also convicted of robbery. Patterson was arrested after a 15 year old girl claimed that Patterson had admitted to the murders. Detectives that were known for torturing African American suspects, obtained a confession very quickly from Patterson. Another suspect was arrested in this case, Eric Cain, he was coeherced by another police officer that told him Patterson had already confessed for the two of them.

After hearing this, Cain testified that Patterson had stabbed the couple for not giving up weapons that they were there to collect, and that Cain ran when the stabbings started. Cain was beaten and then taken to see Patterson who also had been beaten, Cain then signed the confession. Patterson was given a written statement to sign then left alone chained to the wall of the interrogation room. He scratched “ Police threaten me with violence. Slapped and suffocated me with plastic. No lawyer or dad. Sign false statement to murders” onto the wall.

The judge denied motions to suppress the confessions and both men were found guilty from separate juries. There are several contributing factors that lead to the convictons in both cases, the main being the confessions. Without the confessions I belive that these men would not have been convicted and a more thurough investigation would have taken place. Also racial profiling was prodominate in these cases. In the first case faulty assumptions about genetic markers lead the police to focus only on African American males.

Hair obtained at the scene was labeled with “ Negroid characteristics” but was eventually thrown out and believed to be dog hair. Under the assumption that the blood was African American, the other evidence collected was also assumed to come from an African American. The last contributing factors in the first case was that Miller was under the influence of a drug and he was coerced into confessing after a 12 hour interogation. Miller was psychologically vulnerable, he was tired and confused, he thought he was claifoyant and that he was helping the police never suspecting that he could be charged with the crime.

In the second case cohersion was the main factor, Miller went through threats, abuse and false reports of another suspect admitting to the crime as a partner. In both cases the meranda rights law were not developed, DNA testing was recent and not thought reliable in court and forced confessions including police brutality, were acceptablev methods of interrogation. These contributing factors lead to wrongfull convictions based on a new understanding of confessions. Within the types of false confessions generally accepted by the scientific community, these confessions were coerced compliant false confessions.

The confession was obtained after intense interrogation, both men admitted to the crimes even when they knew they were innocent. When it came to the trial eventhough the confessions were obtained with cohersion the jury still believed that the men were guilty. This is because it is commonly mistakenconcept that innocent people would never admit guilt to something that they did not do. This is a missconception because after intense interrogation people want the abuse to stop and they think the fastest was to get out of the situation is to say whatever they need to.

There has also been alternative interrogation techniques that have been developed because of the rate of false confessions. Abuse is no longer acceptable in obtaining confession. The implenmentation of laws protecting people from purgery has also help change meyhods. Anothrer factor is not obtaining confessions when under the influence. A few guidelines in obtaining confessionstoday are: to ask open ended questions and avoid leading questions, also not releasing all the information about the cases to the new outlets.

This leaves pertinante information that only the person commiting the crime would know to be used as a tool. Listen to, do not interrupt or ask repeated questions, are other techniques. Several other methods include: Listening 80 percent of the time and only talking 20 percent of the time. Do not give the suspect a writen statement to sign, this statement does not portray the events in the persons view but raher an interpretation of events based on assumptions.

These two cases used coerced confessions from African American males in their 20s, during a time when racial profiling was very common. The techniques used to obtain these confesssions were unethical and unjustifiable in today’s court system. Without new techniqes in obtaining confessions men like these would be convicted at a higher rate. Jury’s need to understand that when presented a coherced confession they need to rely on the physical evidence and not just the confession. The faulty convictions were due to similar factors.

Race played an important role in both of the convictions. All in all special attention needs to be paid to how a confession was obtained and the contributing factors that lead to convictions. Due to new research and techniques exonerations like these have been found. Think of the many cases were the person was not exonerated and instead died before being given the chance at a fair trial. Both of these men spent a great deal of time in prison for crimes they did not commit, convicted in the 1980s and exonerated in the 2000’s. Law enforcement needs to be mindful of their actions.

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