Arizona Case Brings New Scrutiny to Dynamic of Confessions


The legitimacy of confessions is at the heart of a case of an Arizona woman convicted 23 years ago in the murder of her young son – and of a judge’s decision this week to allow her to go free from prison until she can be retried for the murder, possibly without the confession as evidence, reports the Christian Science Monitor. A federal appeals court last spring overturned the conviction of Debra Milke, on grounds that the sole detective who heard her confession had lied under oath in other cases and about other confessions – and that his track record should have been disclosed to her defense team during trial.

Her alleged confession was not recorded. Milke is not yet exonerated – the state plans to retry her on the same murder charges this fall. But her lawyers have filed a motion to exclude the purported confession from being admitted as evidence. Meanwhile, confessions are coming under increased scrutiny across the country. “Confession is the most powerful type of evidence, more powerful than eyewitness testimony, because who but a guilty person would ever confess to a crime? The truth is, many innocent people do confess,” says Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project.

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