The admission of a criminal defendant’s confession into evidence is almost always fatal to a defendant’s case. And this is no surprise: common sense advises that a confession is particularly incriminating and definitive in establishing a defendant’s guilt. But while a confession’s persuasiveness is not inherently problematic, its unique ability to convey guilt poses a problem when a confession happens to be false. This problem is wrongful conviction. In fact, false confessions are one of the leading causes of wrongful conviction, and individuals who are at risk due to their age, intellectual disability, and/or mental health are especially susceptible.

While the admission of confessions into evidence is governed by constitutional and evidentiary protections, these protections are insufficient to screen for the admissibility of false confessions as they do not govern a confession’s reliability. Accordingly, a new evidence rule is necessary, one that accounts for the confession’s reliability prior to its admission into evidence. This rule must specifically account for the factors known to heighten an individual’s risk of false confession, as these factors may call a confession’s reliability into question. This Note proposes one possible formulation for this new evidence rule and discusses foundations in the current legal landscape that support the proposed framework.



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