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Police Interrogation Techniques Lead to False Confession(s) in Illinois

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Kevin Fox and Jerry Hobbs III share an uncommon similarity ; they both were convicted for the murder of their daughters.  But in what seems to be a rising trend, they both might have given confessions to a crime neither of them committed.

It took approximately 14 hours for police to finally get Kevin Fox to confess for the sexual assault and murder of his 3-year-old daughter.  However, court records show that during the interrogation process, police rejected his requests for a lawyer, told him that they would arrange for inmates to rape him in jail, showed him a picture of his daughter (bound and gagged with duct tape), and told him that his wife planned on divorcing him.  Although the evidence was presented he was convicted and sentenced to jail.  It was not until DNA evidence excluded him as a suspect that he was released 8 months later. The actual assailant was found and tried 6 years later.

In a more recent case, Jerry Hobbs III is the accused of murdering his 8-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old friend. Hobbs did have a criminal record and confessed to the crime after hours of interrogation. In his trial, prosecutors pushed for the death penalty, even though his DNA did not match the semen left on his daughter’s body. Police later matched the DNA to another man accused of other crimes in Arlington, Virginia. Hobbs has been in jail for 5 years and now seeks exoneration.

These cases shed light on interrogation techniques that law enforcement use daily and the results that they achieve. False Confessions were present in 25% of all DNA exonerations.According to the Innocence Project of New York over the past two decades, 254 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence, including 17 who were on death row.

With the upcoming release of a final report from Pennsylvania’s Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project is hopeful that Pennsylvania will join the growing number of states that require law enforcement officials to videotape all confessions from start to finish. Currently, over 700 agencies nationwide require videotaping, and the positive response has been overwhelming. While videotaping does not, itself, prevent a person from falsely confessing to a crime he did not commit, it does allow the factfinder to evaluate the entire interrogation to determine whether the confession is true, or perhaps the result of overly intimidating police tactics or even subjective factors of the defendant, himself. Such best practices are at the root of improving our criminal justice system to ensure that the guilty are convicted, and the innocent go free.

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