Wrongful conviction is a serious issue that unfortunately does occasionally happen and not just in the movies.
Although the U.S. justice system does work to punish actual criminals, criminal defense attorneys find that coerced confessions are a serious problem that can result in innocent people being punished.
To avoid wrongful convictions and coerced confessions, enlist the services of a defense attorney who understands the issues listed below and how to prevent them.
Confirmation bias is what happens when police or investigators suspect they know who committed a crime, focus primarily on that person, and do not continue to investigate other suspects.
In many of these cases, criminal defense lawyers have found when investigators become convinced that they have the right person and hope to make an arrest or a conviction, they experience a form of tunnel vision.
They tend to ignore other evidence that might show that their suspect is innocent or incriminate someone else and as a result, stop looking for additional evidence that could reveal who the identify of the actual guilty party.
These cases frequently lead to pressuring a suspect and eliciting a coerced confession, which can then lead to a wrongful conviction.
Another way that criminal defense attorneys see coerced confessions happening is through coercive questioning during interrogations by police or investigators.
When the investigation focuses on one person, it’s not uncommon for the questioning to be done that could allow a suspect to incriminate him or her self without realizing it or cause a jury to gain an inaccurate idea of what really happened.
Commonly used coercive questioning tactics include:
- Minimization where the crime is downplayed and the suspect is encouraged to "be honest."
- Changing the suspect’s narrative to make it more dramatic.
- Taking advantage of a suspect’s vulnerable aspects, including low IQ, mental defects, religious or political beliefs, inability to speak English well, and others.
Through manipulation, this type of questioning can make innocent people look or even feel guilty to the point where they confess to the crime.
Coercive questioning is also a prime example of why anyone charged with any type of crime should exercise their right to remain silent until they have spoken with a defense attorney.
Police may even try to convince suspects not to seek an attorney because they are aware that a good criminal defense lawyer will ensure the investigation is done using correct procedures and the defendant is not pressured into making an unwarranted confession.
To Wrap It Up
When charged with a crime, it’s essential that defendants choose an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend them, one who understands how wrongful convictions can happen, is aware of these tactics, and can recognize when they are being used.
A skilled lawyer will do a thorough investigation and ensure that all evidence is considered in a criminal case and that defendants in particular are questioned correctly and fairly to prevent any actions that could lead to a coerced confession!
Garza & Elizondo, LLP
680 East St. Charles St, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520
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2395 La Palma Street, Suite A
San Benito TX 78586