By Amaris Elliott-Engel
Of the Legal Staff
Judge Franklin S. Van Antwerpen of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has said police confessions should be videotaped and reviewed by trial court judges pretrial.
The Third Circuit has not yet dealt with a lot of issues involving false confessions, including because 90 percent of all federal defendants plead guilty, Van Antwerpen told a group of attorneys and law students who gathered today for the Temple Law Review's symposium on false confessions.
But the appellate judge said he has been caused concern after learning that four of the 11 Pennsylvania defendants who have been exonerated because of DNA evidence have also given false confessions.
“That's too high,” Van Antwerpen said.
“The best way to implement such a rule would be through court rule-making and to do it prospectively,” Van Anterwerpen said.
Peter Neufeld, of the Innocence Project at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, said that when he started out as a public defender, “I couldn't imagine someone who was actually innocent” confessing to a crime he or she didn't convict. But of 300 cases of people who have been wrongfully convicted in the United States, 75 falsely confessed and lost in the courts when they tried to suppress their confessions, Neufeld said.
That's why there should be pretrial hearings in which confessions are reviewed by judges for reliability, Neufeld said.