Some significant changes could be taking place soon in Illinois regarding police and how they obtain confessions from underage suspects, USA Today reported.
On Sunday, May 31, the Illinois state legislature approved a bill prohibiting law enforcement officers from using deception tactics while questioning minors — who are often very susceptible to giving false confessions, according to advocates. An article in the New York University Law Review stated that people under 18 are two to three times more likely to falsely confess than adults.
Under the new bill, which was passed with near-unanimous support, if an officer knowingly provides “false information about evidence or leniency,” it would be deemed “inadmissible as evidence.” The bill, however, doesn’t mention disciplinary procedures for law enforcement who lie during questioning, nor does it address officers who use deceiving tactics outside the interrogation room, causing many to believe that this may prompt officers into questioning minors in other environments.
State Sen. Robert Peters, one of the bill’s sponsors, spoke on the pending legislation, stating, “When a kid is in a stuffy interrogation room being grilled by adults, they’re scared and are more likely to say whatever it is they think the officer wants to hear to get themselves out of that situation, regardless of the truth.”
Confessions taken under pretense have often resulted in false imprisonment alongside sometimes irreparable damages. It’s much like what transpired with the five Black and Latino young men now known as the exonerated five. Through lies and manipulation from police, four out of the five — the five being Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam — falsely admitted to assaulting and raping a white woman on April 19, 1988, in Manhattan’s Central Park. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that works to exonerate those it believes to have been wrongfully convicted, reported that false confessions played a role in an estimated 30 percent of all wrongful convictions overturned by DNA.
Peters continued, “Police officers too often exploit this situation in an effort to elicit false information and statements from minors in order to help them with a case. Real safety and justice can never be realized if we allow this practice to continue.”
USA Today pointed out, that according to the state’s chapter of the national nonprofit, there have been 100 wrongful convictions handed down by false confessions, 31 of which involved minors in recent years. Although Illinois is the first state legislature to pass a bill of this magnitude, similar legislations are pending in states such as New York and Oregon. The bill will now head over to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk to be signed.