The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 76/No. 3      January 23, 2012

Forced confessions underpin
frame-ups by cops
CHICAGO—The decision Nov. 16 by Chief Judge Paul Biebel of Cook County Circuit Court overturning the 1994 convictions of the Englewood Four and the Illinois Appellate Court’s December exoneration of Juan Rivera, who was convicted in 1993, both shed light on the methods cops use to force false confessions from working people—a key element of the rulers’ frame-up system.

As teenagers these five men were convicted of rapes and murders based solely on “confessions” cops browbeat out of them.

In an interview with the Columbia Chronicle, the student newspaper at Columbia College here, Terrill Swift, one of the Englewood Four, recounted how he was worn down.

After hours of interrogation, the cops promised that if he signed a confession he would be able to go home. “I requested an attorney and to speak with my family,” Swift told the Chronicle. “It didn’t stop. Finally after so much, I just said, ‘OK you’re going to let me go home. I’ll sign,’ and that’s how it went.”

“They came with the stenographer, or the court reporter, and like I said, they fed me everything that I needed to know, basically,” Swift continued. “She asked me, ‘Was I promised anything?’ I told her ‘no’ because I didn’t want to break the deal that I had going with the police and the state’s attorney.”

“There is no physical evidence that links the defendant to the case. There is no other testimony that links him to the case,” Judge Thomas Sumner said at Swift’s trial, according to court records. “We have a 22-page confession, and that is enough for me. There will be a finding of guilty.” Juan Rivera was also convicted in on a confession cops forced out of him.

“Over the course of four days, there were no fewer than 10 law enforcement personnel discussing the crime with defendant or interrogating him,” noted the Appellate Court of Illinois decision freeing Rivera.

In the course of the interrogation Rivera signed two confessions. When cops and prosecutors reviewed the first and thought it insufficient to hold together their frame-up, they went after a second.

“Some people confess from fatigue, stress, and being worn down through relentless questioning and sleep deprivation,” the appeals court wrote, “some people confess out of fear; some people confess with the expectation of future exoneration; some people confess due to coercive or suggestive methods of interrogation.”

The appellate court noted that other than the confession no credible evidence linked Rivera to the crime. He was released from prison Jan. 6.

Swift’s confession, and others like it, is not the result of police torture, Joshua Tepfer, Swift’s attorney from the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, told the Militant. “But it shows that the techniques systematically employed across the country to interrogate children and teenagers, most of it entirely legal, is leading to false confessions at an astounding rate. This needs to change.”

“As of today’s filing date, there have been 272 post-conviction DNA exonerations—almost all of which were rape or murder convictions. False confessions were involved in 25% of those cases,” Tepfer and other attorneys for the Englewood Four said in a July brief that led to overturning their convictions. “That is a truly astronomical number. Equally frightening is the fact that exonerees who were accused as teenagers were almost twice as likely to falsely confess as accused adults.”
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