Criminal/DUI Defense Blog

Coerced Confessions and False Eyewitness Testimonies in New Haven

Posted by Erin FieldFeb 03, 20110 Comments

Last April, two men walked out of court free, after serving seventeen years for a murder they said all along they didn't commit. The judge ruled they hadn't either, releasing them that very day. But, both men will be back in court this week as the state has appealed Superior Court Judge Stanley Fuger's decision to release them.

In 1993 two drug addicted prostitutes tied the men to the scene—stating they saw them kill a Fair Haven shop owner. Now, the women are clean and have recanted their stories, stating New Haven police coerced them into identifying the two men in question.

As the New Haven Advocate reports, however, this isn't the only case. Soon another hearing will take place, involving different defendants but several of the same original officers.

In this other recent case there are allegations of coerced testimonies, harassment, and intimidation. One of the defendants states he was threatened if he didn't confess, his mother would be arrested and his twin infants would be put in state custody.

For many of the general public, it's hard to imagine why someone would confess to a crime they didn't commit. After all, why would you put yourself in a position to go to prison for something you didn't do?

But many are surprised to find out that a large percentage of DNA exonerations involved a false confession. When under the pressure of an interrogation and particularly if you are threatened with more severe penalties without a confession, such a confession can seem like the only way out.

In these New Haven cases, what will happen to the men claiming innocence remains to be seen. As for the police that may have coerced confessions and eyewitness identifications it seems nothing will be done. The state's attorney sees no reason for action at this point, even though he acknowledges the defense attorneys have a basis for the claims in the habeas petition.

Being questioned by police when you are a suspect can be extremely stressful. This isn't just a friendly interview in many cases. Despite the fact that the investigating officer may initially seem to be on your side, they are investigating a crime and may suspect you played a role in it.

What some people don't realize is that their right to an attorney exists at all stages of the criminal investigation process. If the police begin asking you questions you can refuse to answer them until you speak with an attorney. You are also protected against “self incrimination” which means you can refuse to answer questions based on the fact that you don't want to say anything that the police may later use against you.

But when you are being interrogated, these things sometimes don't even cross your mind. You just want to clear your name.

If you are facing criminal charges and aren't sure what to tell the police and what to keep to yourself, consulting with a criminal defense lawyer is a good first step. Contact my offices today for a consultation on your case.