January 10, 2007
“A Louisville man who confessed to sexually assaulting a woman two years ago has been exonerated through DNA evidence.” So begins this Louisville Courier-Journal article.
Matthew Fields told police 23 times that he had nothing to do with the crime. On the 24th time he confessed to burglary, kidnapping, attempted rape and sexual abuse. Then a strange, yet beautiful thing happened, DNA evidence found at the scene belonged to someone else.
All charges have been dismissed, albeit without prejudice.
Like most people I have always been stunned / stumped by the wrongful confession syndrome. Scientific American ran this incredible piece last year on the topic that helps explain it some, but it still mind-numbingly counter-intuitive. I’d love to hear others way in on it, either in comments or link-backs.
Thank goodness for things like DNA & people like the Innocence Project The Innocence Project notes:
In a disturbing number of DNA exoneration cases, defendants have made incriminating statements or delivered outright confessions. These cases demonstrate that a confession or admission is not always prompted by internal knowledge or guilt, but may be motivated by external influences.. . . Given the extremely powerful impact a confession has on case outcome, it is incredibly important to understand the origin of the incriminating statement(s).. . . A false confession to any crime is counterintuitive and self-destructive; therefore, it requires a valid explanation.. . . Though law enforcement must at times employ tactics to extract the truth from uncooperative suspects, police officers, convinced of a suspect’s guilt, may occasionally use interrogation tactics so persuasive that an innocent person feels compelled to confess to a crime.