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Minority Juveniles and False Confessions Essay


Introduction

Over the years, cases of increasing unlawful convictions have been blamed on untruthful admissions (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Hartney, 2006). False confession can be described as the admission of culpability in which the confessor does not bear any responsibility for the crime committed (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008).

More importantly, disputes surrounding the juvenile defendants in the criminal justice system as well as false confessions have been on the rise over the past. In reality, available data postulate that in most occasions, minors are often fast in confessing to offenses that they did not commit (Piquero, 2008; Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery & Patil, 2005; Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Hartney, 2006).

Then reason is that such juveniles are not aware of the ramifications that come with the admission to crime (Ferguson, Jimenez & Jackson, 2010).

In fact, the juveniles fail to see the long-standing aftermaths of their admissions (Scott-Hayward, 2006; Ferguson et al., 2010; Johnson & Hunt, 2000). Instead, the normally opt to say anything throughout cross-examination so that they can head home. Actually, manipulation, vulnerability as well as poor education have been identified as some of the major factors leading to juveniles’ untruthful confessions (Scott-Hayward, 2006; Ferguson et al., 2010; Lynn, 2008; Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007).

False admissions can be either coerced-compliant or coerced internalized. The former involves defendants withdrawing their admissions subsequent to confessing to committing a crime (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Gross et al., 2005).

On the other hand, the latter refers to instances where suspects are made to be certain that they have committed the crime. The paper intends to review cases involving minority juveniles and false confessions (Scott-Hayward, 2006; Ferguson et al., 2010 Steinberg & Piquero, 2008).

Juvenile Justice System and False Confession

The criminal justice system in America continues to be influenced by the ethnic inequalities (Scott-Hayward, 2006; Ferguson et al., 2010; Lynn, 2008). In fact, the minority youth in the US have higher representations within the juvenile justice system. As such, there is increased likelihood of falling victims of false confessions. Minority children have greater chances of being convicted wrongfully by the police compared with juveniles who are white (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008).

However, most false confessions involve juvenile offenders and common among the children below fifteen years. Besides most of the false confessions are related to serious crimes ranging from murder to rape. Further, the police has been found to be having an elaborate preparation on the way they lead the accused to make falls confessions (Scott-Hayward, 2006; Ferguson et al., 2010).

Moreover, most of the false confessions are related to blacks. In most cases, juveniles are supposedly knew the inside information leading to their wrongful convictions. However, DNA and other evidences have proved most the offenders innocent. From such evidences, it is becoming a known fact that most of the convicted offenders have no knowledge of the crimes to which they confessed (Gross et al., 2005; Drizin, 2014).

The proofs of innocence of the wrongful offender have put the police on the sport particularly concerning their shoddy investigations and interrogations leading to wrongful convictions and sometimes life sentences (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Drizin, 2014).

The role of juvenile justice system is to provide a difference minors from the adult criminal justice system through positive intermediation (Scott-Hayward, 2006; Ferguson et al., 2010; Johnson & Hunt, 2000). On the contrary, the racially tilted juvenile justice system has placed numerous black and Hispanic minors in adult prisons. Such actions are not only criminal but also immoral.

Even though the minors have been convicted of serious crimes, putting them in similar jails as adults endanger their lives and undermine the correctional measures that have been put in place (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Drizin, 2014; Field, 2006). To make it worse, most of the juveniles in adult criminal justice system are wrongful offenders.

In fact, studies indicate that the minority offenders undertaking their capital punishment in adult jails are victims of sloppy police investigations and wrongful witnesses (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Scott-Hayward, 2006; Ferguson et al., 2010).

Contaminations in most of the investigations involving minority juvenile cases are inadvertent. In fact, the police utilize sloppy interrogation practices such as using leading questions, take criminals to visit crime scenes and using photos of crime scenes to convince the suspects have lead to the leakage of crucial information to the true perpetrators (Scott-Hayward, 2006; Ferguson et al., 2010 Steinberg & Piquero, 2008).

The information is contaminated and made in such a way that the innocent suspect is the true perpetrator of the crime. In fact, the contamination of such information is not accidental.

The police and prosecutors have always argued that a criminal confession by any standard cannot be voluntary (Piquero, 2008). Besides, interrogation techniques have not separated the adults and juveniles. In fact, interrogations are conducted in equal measure. In most cases, confessions to a criminal offense are obligated, motivated and stage-manage by trained detectives (Piquero, 2008; Gross et al., 2005). In other words, getting true information from a suspect requires skills and sometimes coercion.

The possibility of getting information from a suspect through straightforward conversations is very small. In other words, there must be some force or use of other techniques to get the required information (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Hartney, 2006). In the circumstances that the police are left with no ability to question or confront a suspect, physical force may be necessary.

Nevertheless, the police is highly trained to use various tactics as well as strategies that would enhance the possibilities of obtaining the required information (Piquero, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Hartney, 2006).

False Confessions

False confession is currently the major problem in the US criminal and justice system. False confessions occur when one is convicted wrongfully. In most cases, wrongful convictions result in long-term jail sentences and sometimes life imprisonments (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Piquero, 2008; Gross et al., 2005). Studies indicate that wrongful convictions is common and the law enforcers accept the sloppy police investigations and interrogations resulting in wrong individuals sentenced to undeservedly life sentences.

According to the American criminal justice systems, fall confessions are common among men than women. However, juveniles record the highest number of falls confessions. According to Leighton and De la Vega (2007), juveniles are not fully formed like adults and the likelihood of providing false information is higher.

Besides, external forces are easily influencing juveniles increasing their capability of producing false information when interrogated (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Hartney, 2006). The reasons explain why false confession is higher in juvenile justice system compare with adults.

Police and other law enforcement agencies find difficulties in retrieving true information from juveniles (Ferguson et al., 2010; Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Piquero, 2008; Gross et al., 2005). However, juveniles particularly from the minority groups should not be convicted wrongfully due to suppositions of not getting the right culprits.

The Central Park Five Case

On April 19, 1989, five teenage males comprising of four blacks and a Latino were alleged to have assaulted and raped Trish Meili in the Central Park within New York City (Burns, 2011). The juveniles’ ages ranged from fourteen to sixteen years. On that night, the New York City detectives picked the five teenagers for their naughty undertakings referred to as wilding.

More importantly, police processes often provides for the keeping back of names of the accused less than sixteen years. On the conflicting perspective, in this case, the press was furnished with the details of the juveniles including the names, photos and addresses prior to being arraigned in court. The police failed to provide the victim’s name to the media (Burns, 2011).

In fact, the five accused infantiles ranging from Antron McCray to Yusef Salaam decided to be interrogated. The teenagers thought that they would be allowed to go home after the interrogation. In fact, deception and lies were the major tactics applied by the interrogator to obtain admission from the boys. In this regard, the boys with authorization pleaded guilty to committing rape (Burns, 2011).

After weeks, the suspects cited lies and coercions from the interrogator as the reasons behind their confessions (Burns, 2011). As such, they withdrew their confessions terming the admissions as lies. Deceptions were majorly applied by the interrogator for force the juveniles to confess to the rape of Meili. Specifically, Korey Wise stated that the interrogator told him that confessing to rape would offer Korey freedom and be allowed to go home.

In the case, confessions from the juveniles formed the basis of evidence. From the samples of DNA collected at the crime scene, all the accused were inculpable, as the samples never matched any of the suspects (Burns, 2011). In fact, a supporter of the accused was heard saying that in instances where a white woman undergoes a rape ordeal in the USA, the police through arrests often victimize black youths. In the trial, the boys were found guilty of rape, assault and robbery (Burns, 2011).

As such, they received maximum sentences of between five to ten years in prison. The convicts appealed but the court asserted the verdicts. Interestingly, in 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer confessed to having committed the offense on Meili when he was seventeen years old (Burns, 2011). Besides, it was later substantiated through DNA tests that Reyes who was a diehard rapist had actually committed the crime. Consequently, the sentences given to the five boys were cleared out.

The Englewood Four

The case involved four black young people accused of rape and assassination. Actually, after interrogation amid inconceivable pressure from the officers, the minority teenagers confessed to committing the crime (Krauser, 2012). The evidences presented by the police on the case were fabricated alleging that the accused are members of one of street gangs involved in the raping incidence. Besides, it was alleged that the drug addict had failed to remit her dues to the bunch of criminals.

The teenagers articulated their innocence throughout the trial. However, through the application of evidenced inclined towards untruthful admissions, the four were convicted and incarcerated (Krauser, 2012). After appeal, the evidence from DNA tested revealed that the semen at the crime scene matched that of the sequential murderer and rapist known as Manic. As a result, the sentence against the four were removed and exonerated from jail.

However, the reality is that, during the time of arrest of the Englewood four, crime rates such as murder experienced augmented levels. The reason in those different gangs within Chicago wanted to take control of cocaine trade within the city. Besides, this was the best time to demonize members of the minority such as blacks (Krauser, 2012). As such, in the case, the police used the gang-lingo including stones and security to fabricate confessions.

Besides, the interrogators applied gang nicknames including Mo-Mike, Pug as well as the Undertaker to refer to the names used by the suspects (Krauser, 2012). Moreover, the report of the police indicated that a member of the gang allegedly used words such as “let’s kill the bitch thereby making the other members to murder the sex worker.

In reality, within the expanse of the US, Cook County is dubbed as the center of untruthful confession to crime among teenagers. Actually, available data shows that over twenty convictions are attributed to false confession from teenagers of utmost eighteen years.

Serious crimes including murder and rape are some of the cases where black teenagers are coerced to untruly confess to committing crime (Krauser, 2012). The false confessions often encompass comprehensive coverage of the statistics of the offences withheld from the public.

Dixmoor Five

In the case, five innocent African-American juveniles comprising of James Harden, Jonathan Barr, Robert Taylor, Robert Lee Veal and Shainnie Sharp were wrongfully sentenced to imprisonment for the rape as well as murder of Cateresa Mattews (Janssen, 2012).

The teenagers were convicted based on untrue confessions due to pressure and tricks used by the investigation officers. However, results from DNA found on the girl matched to Willie Randolf, a rapist serving incarcerated (Janssen, 2012). Consequently, the charges against the convicts were vacated and consequently exonerated.

George Junius Stinney Jr. Case

In the case, Stinnney was alleged to have murdered two victims named Betty June Binniker and Mary Emma Thames by beating them with a railroad spike in Claredon County. After an hour of interrogation by white officers, Stinney confessed to killing the girls and was charged with murder (McLaughlin, 2014).

Stinney was found culpable of murder and served the death decree. Despite appeals by the local churches and unions to bar Stinney from execution, but to be given a life sentence given his age, advocates of Stinney’s killing supported the court’s verdict (McLaughlin, 2014).

The case had numerous shortcomings emanating from shoddy investigation by police officers as well as blamed judicial procedures. Interestingly, years later, an over twenty-pound beam was revealed as the cause of the two girls’ death. In fact, given the weight of the beam, Stinney could not even lift the beam. In this case, the execution of Stinney was wrong and resulted from coercive tactics used by police to obtain a confession (McLaughlin, 2014).

Acceptability of Teenagers’ Declarations

Due to false confessions juveniles due to coercive tactics often provide that by the investigators, the testimonies of psychologists and psychiatrists are often significant in the determination of the permissibility of such avowals (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Drizin, 2014; Lynn, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Hartney, 2006).

In this regard, the services of mental experts are often needed to aid the court systems in the determination of the juvenile’s experiences concerning relinquishing rights as well as the rights against admission of guilt (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Piquero, 2008; Drizin, 2014; Gross et al., 2005).

Further, due to higher likelihoods of teenagers to waive constitutional protections, the consultation as well as testimony of psychologists is critical (Piquero, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Hartney, 2006).

For instance, in New Jersey and New York, the confessions of juveniles are viewed as suggestions. Essentially, teenagers are offered with privileges concerning counsel and confession (Johnson & Hunt, 2000; Leighton & De la Vega, 2007; Lynn, 2008; Gross et al., 2005; Drizin, 2014).

Conclusion

As indicated in the cases, circumstances leading unlawful convictions have been blamed on fictitious admissions due to increased pressure from the law enforcers. In most cases, the confessors admit culpability to the crimes that they do not bear any responsibility to have committed. Currently, disputes surrounding the juvenile defendants in the criminal justice system as well as false confessions have been on the rise putting the law enforcers on the sport concerning the quality of investigations that are being conducted.

In fact, the legal fraternity and scholars are questioning the competence of the police and prosecutors on their ability to conduct appropriate investigations. In most occasions, minors are the most vulnerable group are fast in confessing to offenses that they did not commit. Then reason is that such juveniles are not aware of the ramifications that come with the admission to crime. In fact, the cases indicate that juveniles fail to see the long-standing aftermaths of their admissions.

The investigators are fully aware of the juvenile weaknesses. As such they use various tactics to coerce the children to provide information. As indicated in the cases, children normally opt to say anything throughout cross-examination so that they can head home. Actually, manipulation, vulnerability as well as poor education have been identified as some of the major factors leading to juveniles’ untruthful confessions.

False admissions can be either coerced-compliant or coerced internalized. The former involves defendants withdrawing their admissions subsequent to confessing to committing a crime. On the other hand, the latter refers to instances where suspects are made to be certain that they have committed the crime.

The central park five, Dixmoor five and Englewood four represent numerous cases in which black juvenile minorities have been convicted and coerced to give wrongful confessions. In fact, such cases are currently common in the US justice system. Minority children have greater chances of being convicted wrongfully by the police compared with juveniles who are white. However, most false confessions involve juvenile offenders and common among the children below fifteen years. Besides, most of the false confessions are related to serious crimes ranging from murder to rape.

References

Burns, S. (2011). The Central Park five: A chronicle of a city wilding. New York: Knopf.

Drizin, S. (2014). . Web.

Ferguson, A. C., Jimenez, M. M. & Jackson, R. L. (2010). Juvenile false confessions and competency to stand trial: Implications for policy reformation and research. The New School Psychology Bulletin, 7(1), 62-77.

Field, B. C. (2006). Police interrogation of juveniles: an empirical study of policy and practice. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 97(1), 219-316.

Gross, S. R., Jacoby, K., Matheson, D. J., Montgomery, N. & Patil (2005). Exonerations in the United States 1989 through 2003. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 95(2), 523-559.

Hartney, C. (2006). Fact sheet: youth under age 18 in the adult criminal justice system. Oakland, CA: National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Janssen, K. (2012). Dixmoor five, wrongly convicted of murder, sue police. Web.

Johnson, M. B. & Hunt, R. C. (2000). The psychological interface in juvenile Miranda assessment. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 18(3), 17-35.

Krauser, M. (2012). Local ‘’ sue over wrongful conviction for 1994 rape, murder. Web.

Leighton, M. & De la Vega, C. (2007). Sentencing our children to die in prison: global law and practice. San Francisco, CA: Center for Law and Global Justice

Lynn, M. A. (2008). Until they die a natural death: youth sentenced to life without parole in Massachusetts. Union Street, MA: Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts Inc.

McLaughlin, E. C. (2014). . Web.

Piquero, A. R. (2008). Disproportionate minority contact. Juvenile Justice, 18(2), 111-167.

Scott-Hayward, C. S. (2006). Explaining juvenile false confessions: adolescent development and police interrogation. Law & Psychology Review, 31(1), 53-55.

Steinberg, L. & Piquero, A. R. (2008). Rehabilitation versus Incarceration of juvenile offenders: public preferences in four models for change states. Juvenile Justice, 18(1), 231-237.

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