, Ill. (AP) — Illinois
became the first state Sunday to pass legislation prohibiting police
officers from lying to minors during interrogations, a practice that increases the risk of false confessions and wrongful convictions. The bill is expected to be signed into law by the governor
in the coming weeks.
The bill's original sponsors, state Sen. Robert Peters and state Rep. Justin Slaughter, garnered bipartisan support, culminating in a near-unanimous vote in both houses. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, a Republican
and former Chicago prosecutor, joined as a co-sponsor and helped propel the bill's passage.
“I’ll never be accused of being soft on crime
, but I’m more interested in seeking the truth than a conviction,” Durkin said, adding, “I believe in fair play. We should never tolerate, under any circumstances, the use of deception to obtain a statement or an admission from any defendant, let alone a juvenile.”
Police officers should not be allowed to lie to children
for personal gain, period. It's a repugnant practice, and I'm glad that my colleagues in the General Assembly agree.General Assembly approves Peters' ban on deceptive practices against minorsRead more: https://t.co/eeKBcNWQpl
pic.twitter.com/pPpoaTsvoC — State Senator Robert Peters (@senpetersil) May 31, 2021
Though few Americans are aware of it, police routinely deceive suspects during questioning in order to obtain confessions, from claiming DNA placed them at the scene of a crime to claiming eyewitnesses identified them as the perpetrator. Detectives can also lie about the consequences of confessing, for example, claiming that admitting responsibility is a quick ticket home.
Minors, who have been found to be two to three times more likely to confess to crimes they did not commit, are particularly vulnerable to such pressure tactics, according to Laura Nirider, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, who consulted on the bill with the national Innocence Project and the Illinois Innocence Project.
Though lying during interrogation is currently legal in all 50 states
and New York
are considering similar legislation, according to Rebecca Brown, policy director at the national Innocence Project.
The Oregon bill, sponsored by a former cop, passed the House this week and now goes to the Senate
In New York, deceptive interrogation techniques have contributed to several infamous juvenile wrongful convictions, including 15-year-old Yusef Salaam of the so-called Central Park Five
, now also known as the Exonerated Five. The five
Black and Latino teens
were coerced into confessing to a rape
they did not commit in 1989 and were sentenced to life in prison
“What finally pushed [Rep. Durkin] over the edge to sponsor the bill was learning about the case of Brendan Dassey.”https://t.co/lEgfOwYho0
— Laura Nirider (@LauraNirider) May 31, 2021
In recent years, Illinois has discovered at least 100 false confession-based convictions, 31 of which involved people
under the age of 18.
Individuals who falsely confessed to crimes, as well as the state's Chiefs of Police, the Illinois State's Attorneys' Association, and the Office
of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, all backed Senate Bill 2122.
“The history of false confessions in Illinois can never be erased, but this legislation is a critical step toward ensuring that history is never repeated,” Foxx said in a press release, adding, “I hope this is the beginning of rebuilding confidence and trust in a system that has harmed so many people for far too long.”