The Supreme Court has refused to permit prolonged, secret questioning of crime suspects, ruling that even voluntary confessions may not be used in a federal court if the defendant was held more than six hours before confessing, reports the Los Angeles Times. Justice David Souter pointed to the surprising number of persons who have been shown to be innocent through DNA evidence but had confessed to a crime.
Police questioning “isolates and pressures the individual, and there is mounting empirical evidence that these pressures can induce a frighteningly high percentage of people to confess to crimes they never committed,” Souter said. Yesterday’s 5-4 decision upheld a federal rule dating back to the 1940s that says crime suspects should be brought before a magistrate as soon as possible. The Constitution requires crime suspects to be given a “probable cause” hearing within 48 hours of their arrest, the court said in 1991.