October 15, 2014: In a list of new California laws that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has compiled to support the contention of legislative director Francisco Lobaco (at left) -- "In my twenty-five years leading the ACLU's office in Sacramento, I have seen legislative years come and go, but this year stands as one of the most robust in advancing our civil liberties"-- is the signing by Gov. Brown of SB 569 (authored by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance), that requires law enforcement officials to videotape all juvenile interrogations where the charge is homicide. The taping is intended to "help reduce the likelihood of false confessions."
The new law takes effect January 1, 2014. In arguing for the bill, Lieu cited research showing that false confessions by minors have led to an increase in wrongful convictions. In one piece, written by Zusha Elinson in the Wall Street Journal: [emphases ours]
...a 16-year-old confessed to being the getaway driver in a fatal shooting of a Los Angeles man, leading prosecutors to charge the teen and three others with murder.
But defense lawyers found convenience-store video showing the suspects were nearly four miles from the murder scene a minute before the man was shot. The lawyers argued that a detective had coerced the teen, who was drunk, into confessing to a crime he didn't commit. Prosecutors [in December 2012] dropped the charges and the possibility that the four would have spent life in prison.
Juveniles are more likely than adults to confess to crimes they didn't commit, a growing body of evidence suggests. Thirty-eight percent of exonerations for crimes allegedly committed by youth under 18 in the last quarter century involved false confessions, compared with 11% for adults, according to a new database of 1,155 individuals who were wrongly convicted and later cleared of all charges.
The Supreme Court noted in a 2011 opinion on interrogating juveniles that studies suggest the risk of false confessions is "more acute" among youth.
"Juveniles are particularly vulnerable: they tend to impulsive, they tend to be more focused on short-term gratification like 'If I confess can I go home?' " said Steven Drizen of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, which is compiling the new database, called the National Registry of Exonerations, working with the University of Michigan Law School. "They tend to be more deferential to authority; that might not seem like it's the case in the real world, but in the interrogation room it is."