You Have the Right to Remain Innocent

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent



The Pequod Review:

In 2008, James Duane gave a superb 30-minute lecture to a law school class arguing why you should never agree to answer questions from the police. He persuasively outlined the ways that misstatements, exaggerations, and sometimes even truthful statements can be used by the police to convict innocent people and further punish the guilty. That video remains the best summary of his argument, but in 2016 Duane published this short book (You Have the Right to Remain Innocent) which fleshes out his reasoning and provides additional case studies to drive home the point.

One of the more staggering figures cited by Duane is the number of exonerated death row inmates whose original convictions involved confessions of one kind or another:

The most recent and comprehensive investigation, which took a careful look at 250 prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence, found that 16 percent of them made what’s called a false confession: admitting their commission of a crime that they did not commit. Those are the cases in which the defendant actually confessed; in many more cases, the innocent suspect denied all guilt, sometimes for hours, but still gave the police a statement that was then used to help convict him. Out of all the hundreds of innocent men and women who were wrongly convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence, more than 25 percent made either a false confession or an incriminating statement. Every one of those suspects would have been much better off, and might have avoided going to prison altogether, if they had simply read this book.

The Fifth Amendment exists for very good reasons and we ignore it at our peril.