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New “Making a Murderer” ruling denies coerced confession

When investigators charge someone with a crime, they are likely to interrogate the suspect. However, where does a tough interrogation cross the line into bullying to get the answer they want to hear?

An update in the famous trial from the documentary series “Making a Murderer” raises concern about how investigators should question suspects, particularly children and mentally impaired individuals.

A suspect in the case, Brenden Dassey, confessed to being an accomplice in a sexual assault and murder crime with his uncle. The judge sentenced him to jail. Dassey appealed his conviction because he claims that prosecutors forced him to give a false testimony.

Furthermore, Dassey’s lawyer asserts that he was especially prone to pressure due to his age and limited mental capacity as evident in his IQ test. His lawyer believes that the prosecutors should have been aware of this sensitivity and must always adjust their tactics accordingly.

However, the judge disagreed. He ruled that Dassey’s confession was valid because he was not under pressure when he made the confession. Several other judges wrote letters of dissent, which stated that Dassey’s lawyer was correct to say the confession wasn’t accurate.

Although Dassey may not have been under pressure in the courtroom when he confessed, the judge might not have considered what happened beforehand.

The prosecutors, simply by questioning Dassey the way they question other suspects, could have warped his own perception of the truth. This could be an example of internalized false testimony, which is when the suspect starts to believe that the accusations must be true, even if they can’t remember what really happened.

Prosecutors, judges, and attorneys all need to make special considerations for those who are mentally impaired or very young in order to prevent false testimonies. These people who may be vulnerable to coercion should seek the help of a skillful attorney in order to ensure that justice and truth prevail.

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