Courts, Cops Turn More Skeptical Eye on Juvenile Confessions


The Wall Street Journal cites a growing body of evidence suggesting that juveniles are more likely than adults to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Thirty-eight percent of exonerations for crimes allegedly committed by youth under 18 in the last quarter century involved false confessions, compared with 11 percent for adults, according to a new database of 1,155 individuals who were wrongly convicted and later cleared of all charges.

The Supreme Court noted in a 2011 opinion on interrogating juveniles that studies suggest the risk of false confessions is “more acute” among youth. The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law is compiling the National Registry of Exonerations, working with the University of Michigan Law School. Courts, state legislators and police are beginning to grapple with how to conduct juvenile interrogations in light of exonerations and research into how the teen brain works.

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