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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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Interrogation tactics can lead to juvenile false confessions

When it comes to interrogation tactics, a new database analyzing exonerations found juveniles are more likely than adults to falsely confess to a crime. This is particularly troubling as a false confession can lead to a wrongful conviction, all while the real criminal is still out on the streets. This relates to interrogation as investigators have control over how juveniles are questioned.

According to a growing body of evidence, of the 1,155 individuals exonerated of crimes in the last quarter century, in cases involving juveniles, 38 percent of the exonerations involved false confessions. In those cases involving adults, only 11 percent involved false confessions.

In looking at why this is, juveniles simply think differently than many adults. In many cases, juveniles are more concerned with short-term gratification. This could lead to a juvenile falsely confessing to a crime just because he or she wants to go home or wants the questioning to just stop.

Due to the differences between juveniles and adults, the International Association of Chiefs of Police made recommendations for how to properly question juveniles. For those doing the interrogations, this means not offering promises of leniency, using leading questions or conducting long interviews. While these may be standard tactics when questioning adults, these same tactics could lead to false confessions among juveniles.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal focused on this topic. Several personal stories involving false confessions were highlighted.

One story involved a man who spent almost 26 years in prison for a 1983 rape and murder he confessed to. However, he was exonerated in 2010 due to DNA evidence. After his exoneration, the man was also awarded $7 million in damages after a jury found the officer had coerced him into confessing.

This confession came when the man was just 15 years old with an IQ of 67.

Of course this is also just one case and all cases are different. This is why it is important to reach out to an attorney with experience handling juvenile crimes after an arrest or charge. This attorney can keep the juvenile’s best interests in mind while also explaining different options and what the consequences could look like.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “False Confessions Dog Teens,” Zusha Elinson, Sept. 8, 2013

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