HARTFORD – Survivors of police deceptive interrogation, civil rights and civil liberties advocates, legislators, and national law enforcement interrogation experts gathered today at the Capitol to call on the legislature to pass S.B. 1071, a bill to end deceptive police interrogations of children under the age of 18.
Under current Connecticut law, it is legal for police to lie to children during interrogations to extract false confessions. Deceptive police interrogation tactics lack scientific support, frequently result in false confessions, harm wrongfully convicted people and their families and underlying crime victims and their families, and have cost Connecticut at least $48 million.
These tactics have particularly harmed youth, people of color, and people with mental and physical disabilities. Nationwide, of the 211 exonerees who were wrongfully convicted as children, 36 percent falsely confessed. At least 29 percent of Connecticut’s wrongful convictions have involved false confessions, including people who were children at the time when police lied to them to coerce a false confession.
S.B. 1071 would make a police interview with a person under the age of 18 unusable in court if the police interrogators knowingly used false “facts;” false promises of leniency; threats, including threatening use of force; or denied the young person’s physical and/or mental health needs.
“When I was asked to work on this legislation in other states, it touched me in the sense that it could have saved my life. But the reality is what was done to me can’t be undone. I’m am here today, almost 19 years to the day from when I was deceived into confessing, to support exonerees who lived my experience here in Connecticut, because we want to, we have to make sure that it doesn't happen to any more of us,” said Terrill Swift, who was wrongfully convicted due to police deceptive interrogation at age 17.
“Not protecting children from lying and deceiving law enforcement during an interview or an interrogation flies in the face for our sense of justice and our need to protect the youth of Connecticut,” said Marty Tankleff, who was wrongfully convicted due to police deceptive interrogation at age 17.
“I am very concerned that we have still not learned in Connecticut from the mistakes made in my case nearly 50 years ago,” said Peter Reilly, who was wrongfully convicted due to police deceptive interrogation at age 18, “Other states have and experts have done what we have known necessary for far too long. We cannot wait anymore to protect our children.”
“I have little children. I know when they get in trouble or they think they’ve got in trouble, they try to figure out what to say to stop me from being angry with them. That’s what children do. When we’re thinking about a potential crime, we’re also talking about children who are going to function in the same way. When you lie to them and say you have information, they’re going to try to say anything they can to get out of that space. Deceptive police interrogation doesn’t make anyone safer, it doesn’t make the victim of the crime safer or people who live in our society safer, it sends us in the wrong direction. We do not need to lie to children, to say things that are not true. There is a better way to do this, and we want to get this bill passed this year,” said Sen. Gary Winfield, Judiciary Committee Co-Chair.
“The use of deception by law enforcement whether it is lying about evidence, faking sympathy or suggesting that a confession might bring leniency is dangerous because misinformation makes children vulnerable to manipulation. Wrongful convictions often point to innocent people who confess to crimes they did not commit,” said Rep. Steven Stafstrom, Judiciary Committee Co-Chair.
“False confessions continue to result in wrongful convictions. Interrogation practice must evolve to methods based on law, science, and ethics. At Project Aletheia at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, we are working with interrogation professionals and research scientists around the world on research and training in a new wave of science-based, effective interviewing techniques. Yet, there are still far too many confession-driven practices that violate constitutional rights and basic human dignity. Police must be banned from lying to suspects during interrogation. Effective, scientifically supported interrogation techniques must be implemented. Trust must be restored between the police and the public served. Policing with virtue is a step closer to ccommunity-embraced policing,” said Mark Fallon, Past-Chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s International Managers of Police Academy and College Training Section and Past-Chair of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group Research Committee.
“Connecticut must ban the use of deceptive and psychological interrogation tactics on children. These unnecessary and harmful methods have contributed to wrongful convictions. There are more reliable alternatives that have been endorsed by interrogation experts. Our duty as a society is to protect our children, not put them at risk for falsely confessing to a crime. At least 29 percent of Connecticut’s wrongful convictions have involved false confessions, including people who were children at the time when police lied to them to coerce a false confession. If one of the tenets of policing is to protect the public from harm, this does exactly the opposite of that: it harms the people who are being deceived and has potential to let the person who is actually responsible for the crime hurt someone else and not get the help they need. At no point in time should a coerced confession, or one that is gained on fictitious grounds be permissible in a court of law. Children must be protected from these dangerous interrogation tactics and be handled with the utmost care and dignity. False confessions are connected to wrongful convictions, and with the new ruling of the Supreme Court in 2022, it’s impossible to introduce new evidence that may prove your innocence. Connecticut must do the right thing and ban the use of deceptive interrogation tactics now,” said Christina Quaranta, executive director of the Connecticut Justice Alliance.
“Law enforcement, prosecutors, and those working to protect the innocent have joined together in red, blue, and purple states to protect children from these tactics. Each has recognized that they are a tool best left to history, which create an environment unconducive to successful investigations,” said Nathaniel Erb, State Policy Advocate at the Innocence Project, which supported the legislation. “At a time when police-community relations are suffering tremendously, the value of reaffirming that truth underpins our legal system is unquestionable.”
“Youth should be safe and protected everywhere, especially when they are at their most vulnerable. That includes when a child is sitting in a police interrogation room, facing the potential lifelong harm of a criminal record and police who hold handcuffs, guns, and tasers. Deceptive police interrogations are dangerous for all children, but especially for Black and Latinx children, who are disproportionately targeted by policing. The legislature must step up to protect children and pursue justice and fairness by passing this bill into law,” said Claudine Constant, public policy and advocacy director of the ACLU of Connecticut.
For a recording of the press conference: https://www.instagram.com/p/CpiD4knJoh6/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
For more information about the bill: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2023&bill_num=1071