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Illinois became the first state to pass a bill on Sunday that bans law enforcement or any other public official or employee from engaging in deception when interacting with a minor. SB2122 passed both the state House and Senate with near-unanimous support after it was introduced by state Senator Robert Peters and state Representative Justin Slaughter.
The bill was also co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, a Republican and former Chicago prosecutor.
“I’ll never be accused of being soft on crime, but I’m more interested in seeking the truth than a conviction,” Durkin said. “I believe in fair play. We should never tolerate, under any circumstance, the use of deception to seek a statement or an admission by any defendant, let alone a juvenile.”
Police can legally lie in all 50 states
In recent years Illinois has uncovered at least 100 wrongful convictions predicated on false confessions, 31 of them involving people under 18 years of age.
According to Laura Nirider, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, minors have been found to be two to three times more likely to confess to crimes that they didn’t commit. They are especially vulnerable to pressure tactics like police saying DNA places them at the scene of the crime, claiming eyewitnesses identified them as being the perpetrator, and lying about the consequences of a confession.
Most Americans are unaware that it is currently legal in all 50 states for law enforcement to lie during interrogations to minors as well as adults. Oregon and New York are both considering similar legislation, with New York considering even stricter measures by banning deception to minors as well as adults.
The nationally-known case of the Central Park Five, now known as the Exonerated Five, involved five Black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were coerced by law enforcement into confessing to a rape that they did not commit in 1989. The five minors spent years in prison before being exonerated in 2002.
The Illinois bill is expected to be signed into law by the governor in the coming weeks.