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Monday, October 01, 2012


Military Defense Lawyer (Former JAG Attorney) News:

An all too familiar story…

DNA evidence exonerates 300th prisoner nationwide” by

In this news story, the reporter details how this was the 300th DNA exoneration of innocent men imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.  18 of these men were on death row, waiting to be put to death for something they did not do.  The news story goes on to describe how “last Monday, John Edward Smith was released from a Los Angeles jail nearly two decades after he was wrongfully imprisoned in connection with a gang-related shooting.  In August, Chicago prosecutors moved to dismiss murder charges against Alprentiss Nash 17 years after he was convicted of a murder that recent DNA tests indicated he didn't commit. Earlier that month in Texas, David Lee Wiggins was freed after DNA tests cleared him of a rape for which he had served 24 years.”

What can we take away from this?

- The system doesn’t always get it right

- Innocent people do get convicted of crimes they didn’t commit

- Allegations and charges are not always true and accurate

- Innocent people can and do falsely confess to crimes they didn’t commit when confronted
by manipulative and pressure laden police interrogations

For those of you who are quick to judge and to jump to the conclusion of guilt, maybe you should withhold your judgment.  For those “talking heads” in the press who jump on the “of course he’s guilty” parade, maybe you should reevaluate your perspective.  For those of you who say “I would never confess to something I didn’t do” or “just because he didn’t do this, I’m sure he’s committed some crime”…wake up!   

You can’t imagine the pressures experienced by the falsely accused.  You can’t understand what it’s like to undergo a police interrogation – often by an experienced law enforcement officer trained in interrogation tactics and techniques meant to confuse, increase pressure, and psychologically manipulate subjects into making incriminating statements or confessions.  As criminal defense lawyers, we frequently hear the question “How Can You Defend Them?”  I addressed that misguided question in blog posts back in 2007:

Here are some other blog posts addressing DNA exonerations:

I (attorney Richard V. Stevens, Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens, P.C.) first dealt with the issue of false confession in a military premeditated murder court-martial case nearly two decades ago.  Since that time, I have defended many other cases in which false confession and military law enforcement interrogation methods were issues.  I am invited to teach/lecture at military defense lawyer conferences about the interrogation tactics of AFOSI, CID, NCIS, CGIS and false confessions in the military justice system. 

The Air Force now requires that subject interrogations be recorded.  It took ages for them to wise up to the need for this safeguard.  Sadly, other service branches have not followed suit.  What happens behind the closed door of the police interrogation room cannot truly be known and evaluated without a recording.  Failing to record interrogations is most often a strategic decision that allows the law enforcement officer to describe what supposedly occurred during questioning and the prosecutor can then hold that officer out to the jury as unimpeachable.  If the defendant dares to dispute the officer’s description of the interrogation, the prosecutor can argue the defendant has everything to lose in the case, so of course the defendant would lie about what happened in the interrogation to try to “get off.” 

The military justice system and the civilian criminal justice system is made up of people.  People have motives and ambitions and prejudices.  Those people include prosecutors and law enforcement officers.  If you blindly believe in the truth and accuracy of anything on a criminal charge sheet or emanating from the mouths of prosecutors or police, you grant them the opportunity to convict and jail innocent people – who could one day be you or a family member.  As a society, we always need to look for ways to improve the criminal justice system, make it more fair and make it more transparent.  We are, after all, a society that values truth, justice, and freedom…..

For more information about defending military court-martial cases and adverse administrative and disciplinary cases, please see our blog:

By: Attorney Richard V. Stevens
Civilian criminal defense lawyer and military defense lawyer
Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens, P.C.

Blog postscript: Attorney Frank J. Spinner and I (attorney Richard V. Stevens) are former active duty military lawyers (JAG). Our perspectives and advice, therefore, are based upon our experience as military defense lawyers and as civilian criminal defense lawyers practicing exclusively in the area of military law and military justice. This blog addresses issues in military law, military justice, military discipline, military defense, court-martial practice, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and other military and/or legal topics. Nothing posted in this blog should be substituted for legal advice in any particular case. If you seek legal advice for a particular case, please contact The Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens and The Law Office of Frank J. Spinner for a free consultation. These military defense law offices are located in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Southern New Jersey, but the military defense representation is worldwide – when necessary, the attorneys travel to wherever the client is stationed.

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