States Are Finally Starting To Rein in Deceptive Police Interrogation Techniques That Lead to False Confessions

Devastating examples of how coercive interrogations can lead to false confessions have led Illinois and Oregon to become the first states to limit when police can lie to suspects.

Last month, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to ban police from lying to minors during interrogations. Oregon followed suit shortly after, and similar legislation has been introduced over the past several legislative sessions in New York.

The new laws and bills are the result of years of mounting evidence and DNA exonerations showing that minors and even adults can be pressured by police into falsely confessing to crimes they didn’t commit.

Specifically, Illinois’ law makes confessions by minors obtained through knowing deception about evidence or leniency inadmissible in court. As states begin to finally reckon with the phenomenon of false confessions, there are plenty of cases that show the disastrous consequences of using deception and other ploys to squeeze confessions out of people.

Take the case of Lawrence Montoya. In 2000, Denver police officers took Montoya, then 14 years old, and his mother into a small interrogation room to question him about the death of Emily Johnson, a 29-year-old schoolteacher who had been found fatally injured in her backyard in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day.

Later that day, Montoya hopped in a car with his cousin and some other teens he didn’t know to go joyriding. It was Johnson’s stolen Lexus. Police later found the Lexus in a ditch, and eventually got an anonymous tip about the driver, who’d been running his mouth about stealing it. The driver gave up the names of all the other passengers, including Montoya’s.

In the interrogation room, Montoya admitted to the detectives that he’d taken a ride in the car, but over the course of the next two hours, he denied ever being at the house 65 times. Eventually the detectives got Montoya’s mother to leave, giving them the opportunity to lean on Montoya harder. – READ MORE