Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

California Laws to Prevent False Convictions

Posted on: June 27, 2007 at 10:07 a.m.

The California Legislature realizes the strong likelihood of false convictions in criminal cases, as reported in the L.A. Times on June 27, 2007. One pending bill is aimed at reducing the number of false confessions. It would mandate electronic recording of interrogations of suspects in homicides and violent felonies who are in police custody. Often the police fail to record statements made by suspects. As a result, officers and detectives are free to suggest whatever they want in front of juries, without the support of a recording. This is very problematic especially in cases where suspects are facing life in prison, or the death penalty. Further, unlawful coercive conduct by the police is known to happen in interview rooms, where the suspect may be badgered, denied contact with family an friends, and even threatened with having own family members investigated. Resulting false confessions have led to numerous suspects being convicted, who were later exculpated based on DNA evidence. Another pending bill would require corroborating evidence for the testimony of jailhouse informants, who have been shown to lie sometimes to receive reduced sentences or other benefits. Informants seeking to get out of jail early have strong motives to incriminate other inmates, and have done so many times in the past implicating innocent individuals. A third bill required that the California attorney general, in consultation with other key stakeholders in the criminal justice system, to develop new guidelines for lineups presented to eyewitnesses to see if they can identify suspects. Suggestive line-ups had led to numerous wrongful identifications, causing innocent people to be sent to prison for many years. Arthur Carmona of Orange County came to Sacramento to testify on behalf of the bills, in front of the legislature. He told committee members how at age 16 he was arrested, convicted and imprisoned for committing strong-arm robberies in Orange County, based on a mistaken identification by an eyewitness. He spent 2 1/2 years in prison before errors were discovered and he was freed.

Tagged as: faq, motion to dismiss unlawful police search

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