The False Confession: When a pack of M & M’s Leads to a Life in the Michigan Department of Corrections (A Step-by Step Analysis)

What if I told you that a bag of peanut M & Ms was what led to a false confession? Would you believe me?  And wouldyou believe that the reason an individual made such a confession was because they wanted the M & Ms so bad they told the police what they wanted to hear?  Today, we are going to discuss the topic of the confession and what can lead to one making an admission to something that they did not do.  

The story starts with a young man that was questioned by the Michigan State Police. The young man was a suspect of a crime.  He went into the police station and took a police polygraph.  He was never read his Miranda Warnings and was at the station for 7 hours.  The young man had mental health issues and all he wanted to do was leave the station.  He was tired and he was hungry.  The officer asked if the young man liked some candy.  He responded that he would love some peanut M & Ms.  The officer said he could have the M & Ms if he would just tell the police a few things.  From there the camera accidentallywent off but luckily for the prosecution, a written statement was present.  The young man got his M & Ms and also got life in prison for a murder that DNA proved was not his.  We hear horror stories of the West Memphis Three, The Central Park Five and Brendan Dassey. While all of these cases are tragedies, there are so many other that tragically fall under the radar.  To combat this issue, the qualified criminal defense lawyer needs to bring in a false confession expert.  Today, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in the state of Michigan to discuss the 6-step process of how you should make your argument at the Daubert Hearing for the False Confession Expert.

Step I:  The Introduction.  This is when you lay the foundation for who your false confession expert is. This will generally be 5 to 7 questions that will connect the expert with your judge.  Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Washtenaw County, Michigan and is known as one of the top brief writers in the state of Michigan.  When asked about the introduction, McMauns stated, Its like the first quarter of a football game. You want to start strong.  You do not need to go too long but you need to set the tone.  Short and Sweet after you provided the CV for your expert and you start off on the right foot.

Step II: The Education and Work History of the Expert.  This is when you substantiate the introduction with ones credentials.  Joe Brunoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates (https://www.grabellaw.com) one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the Kent County, Michigan area and provided his insight on this issue.  Brugnoli explained, This is where you want to lock into specifics.  You have to remember that you are setting up the cross examination of the prosecutor so we want to flex the intellectual muscles of the expert.

Step III:  Explaining the Research and Writing on False Confessions and Social Psychology.  This is where you explain the relationship of your expert to the topic.  Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo and is known asone of the top family law attorneys in the state of Michigan.  Kelley provided her thoughts when she noted, Admissions come into family law.  If you have a client with disposable income and you want to explain away the admission, this is the most critical aspect.  This is when the attorney should utilizetheir expert as a treatise on the subject.

Step IV:  Questions about Science:  This is where the exploration of social psychology comes alive.  This becomes a central part of the topic.  Nancy Eaton Gordon is a partner at Jackson Eaton-Gordon and Associates www.jackson-eaton-gordon-associates.com and a top litigator in Lenawee County, Michigan.  Eaton-Gordon provided her thoughts on the topic when she said, This becomes essential when you are trying to connect your client to the expert.  The expert need to provide the bridge between their claim and the position of the client.

Step V:  Opinions on the case.  This is where there is a pivot.  The attorney breaks apart the legal analysis.  Ravi Gurumurthy is a top criminal attorney in the northern part of Michigan.  (www.michiganlawnorth.com). Gurumurthy stated, This is where you need to explain to the court what exactly is met by classification error and display how other circuit courts have approved of this explanation and testimony.  This is an essential piece of building your puzzle.

Step VI: Questions about Common Sense. This is when the attorney needs to simply the hypothesis that has been presented in the first five steps.  William Amadeo is a Partner for McManus and Amadeo and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates.  Amadeo is known as one of the top criminaldefense lawyers in the state of Michigan and spoke about step VI.  Amadeo was quoted as saying, No matter what anybody tells you, the confession is the most powerful tool that a prosecutor has.  When you view the Ryan Ferguson tragedy, you have to look no further than the confession of Chuck Erickson that led somebody like Kevin Crane to prosecute an innocent man. (https://abcnews.go.com/US/ryan-ferguson-freed-spending-decade-prison-murder/story?id=20867889). The issue we face as criminal defense lawyers is the explanation in the clearest of terms to explain why somebody would confess to a crime they did not commit.  Steps I-V are essential when conducting your Daubert Hearing, Step VI is the most crucial to a jury.

While we learn about Ryan Ferguson, The West Memphis Three, The Central Park Five and Brendan Dassey, there are young people that are trading their freedom in the hopes of leaving a police interrogation for something as small as a candy bar.  The system is broken but hopefully repairable.

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