Articles Posted in Confessions

Akorede Omotayo, The Right to Silence–or the Presumption of Guilt.

This is an interesting discussion from another country on something we are familiar with.

It will be recalled that the right to silence formerly comprises the privilege against self-incrimination and the right not to have adverse inferences drawn from his silence. Prior to the CJPOA, no evidential significance could be attached to an accused’s exercise of the right to silent, save when the accused and the victim were on even terms. However, theprovisions in the CJPOA, particularly ss 34-35 have sought to alter this principle to the extent that the question that this essay grapples with, is whether the right to silence,despite the changes, is still useful in protecting an accused’s supposed ‘constitutionalright’ of innocence, until proven guilty.

Be careful of who you talk to if you are in trouble.  I think it’s fair to say that CAAF has narrowed the who and when requirement for an Article 31, UCMJ, warning, as illustrated in a recent Air Force case.

Thus, Article 31(b), UCMJ, warnings are required when (1) a person subject to the UCMJ, (2) interrogates or requests any statement, (3) from an accused or person suspected of an offense, and (4) the statements regard the offense of which the person questioned is accused or suspected.” Jones, 73 M.J. at 361 (footnotes omitted) (citation omitted). However, the second of these prongs is met only if the questioner was acting in an official law enforcement or disciplinary capacity, or could reasonably be considered to be acting in such a capacity by a “reasonable person” in the suspect’s position. Id. at 362. “Questioning by a military superior in the immediate chain of command ‘will normally be presumed to be for disciplinary purposes,’” although such a presumption is not conclusive. Swift, 53 M.J. at 446 (quoting United States v. Good, 32 M.J. 105, 108 (C.M.A. 1991)) (additional citations omitted).

An “interrogation” includes “any formal or informal questioning in which an incriminating response either is sought or is a reasonable consequence of such questioning.” Mil. R. Evid. 305(b)(2).

I have used the title of a new paper by Prof. Richard Leo.

Of the 1,705 post-conviction DNA and non-DNA exonerations that have occurred from 1989 to the end of 2015, approximately 13 percent of these wrongful convictions were due to false confessions, and virtually all of these occurred in either homicide or rape cases. This chapter discusses why false confessions occur and discusses the ways that law enforcement training can be modified to avoid false confessions. False confessions primarily occur due to a lack of proper training, poor investigative practices, and the use of scientifically invalidated and/or high risk interrogation techniques and strategies. To safeguard against false confessions, the author argues that investigators should receive training on the following topics: 1) the existence, variety, causes and psychology of false confessions; 2) the indicia of reliable and unreliable statements and how to distinguish between them; 3) the need to obtain corroborating evidence to verify suspects’ confessions; and 4) avoidance of inadvertent contamination of interrogations by disclosure of non-public case facts to suspects.

Leo, Richard A., Interrogation and False Confessions in Rape Cases (December 2015). in Robert Hazelwood and Ann Burgess, eds., PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF RAPE INVESTIGATION: A MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH (CRC Press, 5th ed., 2016 Forthcoming); Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper . Available at SSRN:

I don’t often look at the Naval Justice School site, less robust than it used to be.  But today I did decide to see if there is a new issue of the Naval Law Review.  Sure enough, there’s an article of interest to military justice practitioners. You’ll have to scroll down to page 67, it’s not hyperlinked.

The notorious CDR (judge)(Art. 32 IO) Monahan has this piece.


Can a failure to file a pretrial motion equal ineffective assistance of counsel?  The BLUF is yes in some cases.  In some instances I have argued IAC on appeal for failing to make a meritorious motion.  The NMCCA has issued an interesting opinion in United States v. Spurling, in which they discuss this important issue.  The opinion appears to be an en banc one although not labeled as such – Sr. Judge Ward writes for a majority of five, with three dissenters in an opinion written by Judge King.  The issue of IAC for failure to raise a pretrial motion is neither novel nor rare.  Many of my appellate clients raise a question about why the defense counsel didn’t fil a particular motion.  I am about to file one in a case (citing United States v. Grostefon) where the client complains that the defense counsel did not file a motion to dismiss certain charges.  A more common issue is a motion to suppress, or speedy trial, or UCI.

  1. Spurling claimed IAC because his counsel did not litigate his admissions. Interestingly both counsel admitted they didn’t even catch the issue:  [Counsel] failed to “recognize the issue based on [her] lack of experience, the work load at the time, and never having argued an Article 31 issue[.]”
  2. Capt B concurs, stating that had the issue occurred to him “[he] would have proposed filing it.”

Prosecutors ask CID, NCIS, OSI, CGIS agents all the time why they didn’t believe the accused in the interrogation.  The answer often is a variant of, “he was nervous.”

Yeah, right.

First they are told and usually escorted to the LE office.  The escort won’t tell them why or what’s going on.  They then have to wait the appropriate time in the waiting area to heighten the tension.  I was reminded of this by a post from fourth amendment blog.

Eyewitness Memory for People and Events (Chapter 25)

Gary L. Wells

Iowa State University, Department of Psychology

Elizabeth F. Loftus

University of California, Irvine – Department of Psychology and Social Behavior
January 16, 2013
Handbook of Psychology, Vol. 11, 2013, Forensic Psychology, Chapter 25, R.K. Otto and & I.B. Weiner (Eds), Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2013-88

This chapter begins with a summary of the case of Thomas Brewster, who was tried for murder based in large part on eyewitness testimony. Ultimately DNA came to Brewster’s rescue, and he was freed before the trial ended. Analyses of taped interviews in the case help reveal how the interviewing process itself may have tainted the eyewitness testimony. The chapter continues with discussions of new psychological research on memory for complex events. This work shows how the details of events can be changed when witnesses are exposed to post-event information that is misleading. And with enough suggestion, entire events can be planted into the mind of ordinary healthy adults. The final section discusses new findings concerning eyewitness memory for people. This includes eyewitness identification of previously seen strangers, and new findings on procedures that can reduce mistaken identifications.

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