The state of Illinois became the first in the U.S. to ban police from lying to minors during interrogations. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the rule into law on July 15.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “The law…bars police from knowingly providing false information about evidence or making unauthorized statements about leniency while questioning those 17 and younger. Any confession made under those circumstances will be inadmissible in court unless prosecutors can prove ‘by a preponderance of the evidence that the confession was voluntarily given.’”
At the signing was Terrill Swift, who was imprisoned for 15 years after confessing to rape and murder he didn’t commit. Swift, who was one of four teens convicted of the crime, was released after DNA evidence linked the crime to a previously convicted murderer and sex offender.
Juveniles are more likely to give false-confessions than adults. According to the WSJ, “Thirty-eight percent of exonerations for crimes allegedly committed by youth under 18 in the last quarter century involved false confessions, compared with 11% for adults.”
Illinois has had issues with police misconduct and false confessions.
The Chicago Tribune reports:
“In Illinois alone, we know of 100 wrongful convictions that have been based on false confessions. And in 31 of those cases, the person who falsely confessed was a child,” said Laura Nirider, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern’s law school. “Many children who falsely confess do so because they are told downright falsehoods during interrogation, statements like, ‘Your DNA was found at the scene,’ or, ‘If you confess, you’ll get to go home.’ ”
This issue has been especially acute in Chicago. According to the Chicago Torture Justice Center, over 120 people, predominantly African-American men, were tortured from 1972-1991 Under the command of Chicago Police Department (CPD) Commander Jon Burge. Burge and officers “under his command targeted communities of color, kidnapping and torturing individuals producing confessions to crimes not committed.” The city of Chicago issued the nation’s first reparations package to survivors of police torture.
The Tribune story noted that Governor Pritzker also signed measures “that prevent statements made during restorative justice practices from being used in court; allow state prosecutors to petition courts for lighter sentences for people convicted in their counties ‘if the original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice’; and create a task force to study ways to reduce the state’s prison population through re-sentencing.”