Police Apologist on Central Park Five

“The Myth Of The Central Park Five” – http://huff.to/1xqqCMi

This is the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from police, when a case is proven wrong, especially involving gross police misconduct, they insist that the falsely accused really were guilty and bad guys generally.

Zulawski and Wicklander have a book on police interrogation, “Practical Aspects of Interview and Interrogation”, on how to do it correctly, including a whole chapter on wrongful confession issues.

The Central Park Five case is a textbook case of how get false confessions.

It can be easier with more accused- as soon as the weakest breaks and tries to pin it on one of the others they can all turn on each other because of the coercive effect of the first statement.

Black men fingered in a notorious crime, at that point none of them are expecting to go free although they had nothing to do with it.

The article writer is missing the crucial distinction between different types of inaccurate confession cases.

The example he gives of a man who had definitely stabbed his wife claiming he slipped does as he states show the man was a liar and lacked remorse. 

But that is a partially false confession, as the stabbing happened and he did it and there was no serious dispute.  The practical value is to eliminate any insanity defence and maybe get maximum sentence.

When identity is in issue what he states about false confessions being as useful as truth is simply wrong.

The reason the five accused in the Central Park case had all different stories is it never happened.

One of the things to look for there is what only the perp would know.

As I understand it one of the things used to break the five was dishonesty about forensic evidence in the interrogation. 

When police are just randomly guessing who is responsible it is entirely unethical to convince a random group of people that they’re going down for the crime and their only way to minimize consequences is to implicate the others.

It’s particularly unethical when minors are involved.

High pressure cases can lead to bad police work an example in the book is the Pheonix Temple murder case.

In that case a mental patient made an unsolicited confession and implicated five other innocent people.

Police interrogated the five and got false confessions out of three of them, for a total of four false confessions in the case.

Coerced confessions aren’t that difficult to get, probably more so from non-criminals that are shell-shocked than hardened criminals.

A related variant is coercion of witnesses to make false statements, another common feature of wrongful convictions.  People that saw nothing or who have exculpatory evidence are made to believe they will be charged to unless they commit perjury.

There was that death penalty case a few years ago where 7 of 9 witnesses recanted, stating police coerced them into giving false evidence.  Another version of the same thing.

Mind games are not evidence.  If there is nothing else on identity and the confession is seriously inaccurate and a result of high pressure, lengthy interogation and false statements by police about evidence, it’s worthless and in my view all such statements should be automatically thrown out.

Also, another area is false alibis. 

One of the greatest errors in the history of law is the admissibility of false alibis to prove consciousness of guilt and by extension guilt itself.

There is so much wrong with it, where to begin. 

The first is that it is unsophisticated pop psychology.   It isn’t supported by psychiatry or even common sense.  All it indicates at worst is fear and an innocent person may feel that even more acutely than a guilty one. 
Imagine you’re a law abiding citizen going to the store for milk and suddenly police descend on you about some rape or murder by one of the ten thousand people in the city with a similar jacket. You just happen to be the first they ran into.  The real perp probably had more sense than to go walking down the street, so they probably grab somebody else.

Then they take you down to the station and grill you for 12 hours, probably don’t feed you, may restrict access to a bathroom, etc.

They pound the table and say they know it was you, maybe falsely claim to have found fibres or gunshot residue.

All the time you’re probably thinking about what friends, family, employers etc are going to think and whether they know.

If you can’t afford a lawyer but aren’t eligible for legal aid you will get to talk to some form of duty counsel but the guy isn’t going to park himself there.

If police just release a person at that point he’d probably have post traumatic stress for a while and be seriously messed up, if not have a psychotic break.

But the wrong sort of cop will just keep going.

A person in that state may give an incorrect alibi just out of exhaustion and confusion.

Some people out of desperation, especially if they have no faith in police, will make some false statement that they hope will end it. 

Sometimes they give up, police convince them that they will be found guilty and give a false confession to end the torment.

Sometimes they give a false alibi.

It’s something that has no probative value at all but extremely prejudicial. 

In my view false alibis in most cases, and always where identity is the central issue, be inadmissible and grounds for a mistrial if raised.

The exceptions would be as with the above stabbing case, where the alibi doesn’t go to identity, which is otherwise well established, but does go to state of mind.

One of the more famous wrongful conviction cases involved a false alibi on a rape charge where DNA later conclusively exonerated a convict after ten years in prison.

Getting false statements is largely a function of police pressure and dirty tactics, and a substantial portion of the population will succumb if the pressure is enough.

Investigations are supposed to be a quest for truth, not some free form art project limited only by the creativity of the detectives involved.

This is an area where I think police unions could potentially do some good.

High pressure cases have a far greater probability of wrongful conviction or poiice misconduct than other cases (distinct issues- see e.g. the glove apparently planted on OJ’s lawn).

That’s a good time to park a union rep in the office to push back on any improper pressure on detectives to cut corners. It’s extra important in such cases that everything be done properly.

As for the other allegations about the five guys in the Central Park case, they arose through the same tainted process.  There was no attempt to mount an objective investigation.  The insinuation that they were black so they must have been doing something wrong doesn’t deserve a response.


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