The Los Angeles Times recently published an article that explains how Edward Arch, on trial for a 2007 murder, finally had his case dismissed due to findings that his confession was coerced.
In May 2007, a group of men got into a verbal altercation with another man as he drove by them. They chased him down and shot him multiple times at close range. Three weeks after the incident, Arch, then nineteen years old, arrived at LAPD’s Mission Station for questioning.
Detectives used misleading information to get Arch to confess, including saying that two other people had already implicated him in the killing and that he’d been seen in the car that had chased the victim down. Arch called the witnesses “liars,” and said that he’d been playing video games at his aunt’s house at the time of the killing.
As we saw in this recent PA Superior Court decision, there are many reasons why an individual may confess to a crime he didn’t commit. One of the most distressing is coercion by interrogators; there are no ethical or legal rules that keep detectives from lying to suspects to try to get them to confess. Detectives in this case not only implied that Arch would go free if he confessed, but also led him by providing details about the crime that hadn’t been made public. He then confessed, fearing that he would receive a harsher punishment if he continued to claim innocence, and spent three years in prison awaiting trial.
The case was dismissed immediately prior to the start of jury deliberation. Had Arch been convicted, he would most likely have been sentenced to life in prison.
Prior to his confession, Arch stated repeatedly that he had nothing to do with the shooting and had been nowhere near the car at any point. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Harvey Giss said that “it wasn’t even a close call” whether Arch’s confession had been coerced.