Can Police Officers Lie to Coerce a Confession?


This week, a New York Court will decide whether to allow police officers to lie in order to coerce a confession. Two particular cases in recent times led to this debate. What both cases had in common was that police told the criminal suspects that the victims were alive, and that a confession could save them. In reality, victims in both cases had already been declared dead.

The first case involved a man from Troy, New York and his infant son. Although the father had hospitalized his son for pneumonia and an infection, further evaluation showed that the infant was suffering from head trauma. When questioned by police, the father said that the head trauma was an accident a whopping 67 times. The police then told the suspect a few different lies which effectively prompted a confession, conviction and a sentence of 25 to life. The conviction was upheld on appeal.

In the second case, police lied to the suspect by saying that if he was honest about what drugs his girlfriend took, they would be able to revive her. This prompted the boyfriend from New Rochelle, New York to confess that he had injected his girlfriend with heroin and also given her Xanax. At the time police told the suspect doctors might be able to revive her, the woman had already been declared dead. Unlike the first case, this conviction was overturned on appeal.

To read more about this issue, read the following news articles: