Why to use your right to remain silent
You have the right to remain silent. Many feel that this is so that they don’t incriminate themselves when talking to law enforcement after a crime may have been committed, which is accurate. However, I feel that, even when innocent, you should remain silent. This article is designed to show you why.
When you meet an overzealous police officer and prosecutor, their actions may feel like they’re looking for a conviction, not looking for the “truth” or solving the crime justly. I don’t believe this to be intentional; however, there are pressures on solving these terrible crimes, and they are human and make assumptions. But like many of the assumptions we make, we may be wrong. However, when our assumptions are wrong, it doesn’t ruin someone’s life. Prosecutors may do just that if they’re not doing their due diligence. Let’s look at just a few high profile examples:
Richard Jewell, whose name was thrust back into the spotlight after the 2019 movie, Richard Jewell, saved the lives of people during a bombing at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park. While working as a security guard for AT&T, he discovered a backpack that contained three pipe bombs. Jewell alerted police and helped evacuate the area before the bomb exploded, saving many people from injury or death. Jewell was initially hailed as a hero but later became a suspect, before ultimately being cleared when Eric Rudolph was found to be the bomber. Despite never being charged, Jewell underwent a “jury by media,” which took a toll on his and his mother’s personal and professional life, resulting in his premature death at 44 years old.
The Central Park Five.
This is the criminal case based on the assault and rape of a 28-year-old woman. As chronicled in the Netflix mini-series, When They See Us, five children between the ages of 14-16 were wrongfully convicted and then incarcerated for 5-10 years. All five confessed to the crime after being interrogated for hours without lawyers, and according to them, deprived of food and sleep. They were convicted despite giving accounts that were inconsistent with each other and with the crime scene, and there was no supporting DNA evidence. They were convicted based on false, coerced confessions, which we know now because someone else came forward and confessed to the crime.
In 2008, 16-year-old Nga Truong confessed to killing her 13-month old infant in Massachusetts. The American-Vietnamese teenager had phoned emergency services after her baby had stopped breathing, and one-and-a-half hours later, a doctor pronounced him dead. The officer who questioned Truong in a confined room made accusatory statements, lied about the evidence and offered false promises.
In a video of the confession, obtained by American public radio station WBUR, the police said that Truong would be given a more lenient punishment if she confessed and that she and her brothers could be put into a better living situation. At the time, she lived in an apartment with her boyfriend, mother, and siblings. The police also referenced an incident when Truong was eight years old and her mother had left her to look after her baby brother, who died from sudden infant death syndrome under her watch. A judge watched the tape and ruled that the confession was coerced and Truong was released – after almost three years in jail.
Henry McCollum and Leon Brown.
Henry McCollum and his half-brother, Leon Brown, were convicted in 1984 for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina after both teenagers confessed to the crime. They were 19 and 15 at the time, and both had intellectual disabilities. Both soon recanted, saying they were coerced, but to no avail. Brown was eventually sentenced to life in prison, while McCollum spent 30 years on death row. They were exonerated on DNA evidence in 2014 and later given pardons of innocence.
Why would people admit to committing a heinous crime?
Of all the convicted people who have been exonerated by DNA testing, almost 30 percent confessed to crimes they didn’t commit, according to the nonprofit legal rights group, The Innocence Project. Saul Kassin, Ph.D., considered to be a false confession expert, found that vulnerable suspects, including teenagers, people with intellectual impairments, and those with mental illness, are more likely to make false confessions, especially if they are under pressure from interrogators. Police are permitted to lie about evidence and imply promises and threats through subtle but lawful tactics.
Many police and prosecutors are in their line of work for the right reasons, but there are some that look only to “win” a case. You have the right to remain silent, and whether you are guilty or innocent; you should take full advantage of this right.
*This article is written by Sean Kelsey, Chief Operating Officer, a non-attorney with Nave Law Firm. No information should be construed as legal information and is the opinion of Sean Kelsey if you have questions please contact SKelsey@naveteam.com
 A bill, S6806,l is currently being considered by the New York State Senate on whether police officers can continue to use these deceptive practices to obtain confessions.