• Mon. Jan 17th, 2022


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Illinois Lawmakers Bar Police From Using Deception When Interrogating Minors

State Senator Robert Peters, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the bill, said in a statement that a disproportionate number of wrongful convictions had involved young Black people who had been convicted after the Chicago Police lied to them during questioning. He called Chicago “the wrongful conviction capital of the nation.”

One of several cases cited by the bill’s supporters involved four men — Charles Johnson, Larod Styles, LaShawn Ezell and Troshawn McCoy — who had been arrested as teenagers and spent more than 20 years behind bars for a 1995 double murder in Chicago.

A judge set aside their convictions in 2017 after prosecutors cited new evidence in the case. Lawyers for the men have said their confessions were coerced by the Chicago Police, who fed them information about the crime and then threatened them if they did not repeat the officers’ fabricated statements. The teenagers were told, according to their lawyers, that they might never see their families again, could serve life in prison or could even receive the death penalty.

“The history of false confessions in Illinois can never be erased, but this legislation is a critical step to ensuring that history is never repeated,” Kimberly M. Foxx, the Cook County state’s attorney, said in a statement. “I hope this is a start to rebuilding confidence and trust in a system that has done harm to so many people for far too long.”

The case of Brendan Dassey, whose murder conviction was documented in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer,” drew national attention to the issue.

Mr. Dassey was 17 in 2007 when he was convicted of helping his uncle murder and sexually assault a photographer. Mr. Dassey has intellectual disabilities, and his legal team has long argued that his confession was coerced in a deeply flawed interrogation. In 2019, Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin denied a request to grant Mr. Dassey clemency.

“When a kid is in a stuffy interrogation room being grilled by adults, they’re scared and are more likely to say whatever it is they think the officer wants to hear to get themselves out of that situation, regardless of the truth,” Mr. Peters, the state senator, said in the statement.