Gov. Brown signs bill to help reduce false confessions by juveniles charged with homicide

October 13, 2013
09-12-13 SB569 Chair2.jpg

Action means interrogations of juveniles for homicide would be videotaped

SACRAMENTO – Minors accused of homicide would have greater protections from coerced confessions because key law enforcement interviews would be videotaped under a Sen. Ted W. Lieu bill signed into law today by Gov. Brown.

Senate Bill 569 by Sen. Ted W. Lieu, D-Torrance, who had cited research showing that false confessions by children under 18 have led to an increase in wrongful convictions, takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

“The virtue of videotaping interrogations of children lies not only in its ability to guard against false confessions but also how it can develop the strongest evidence possible to help convict the guilty,” Lieu said. “Requiring videotaping of the interrogations of juveniles suspected of homicide would improve criminal investigation techniques, reduce the likelihood of wrongful conviction and further the cause of justice in California.”

Lieu pointed to the research of professors Drizin and Leo of the University of San Francisco School of Law suggesting that false confessions are often extracted from the most vulnerable suspects. Specifically, in a database of 125 proven false confessions compiled by Drizin and Leo, 33 percent involved confessions from juveniles, most of who confessed to brutal murders.

Furthermore, in a more recent review of exonerations between 1989 and 2004 (Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery, & Patil, 2005), 42 percent of the cases of juvenile exonorees involved false confessions, compared with 13 percent of the cases of adult exonerees.

Finally, among the youngest of these juvenile exonerees (aged 12 to 15), 69 percent confessed to homicides and rapes that they did not commit.

Lieu said his motivation in introducing SB 569 stemmed from concern about how children are vulnerable to false confessions or coercion because of their immaturity. Research has demonstrated that brain development continues throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. The brain’s frontal lobes – responsible for mature thought, reasoning, and judgment – develop last.

“Adolescents use their brains in a fundamentally different manner than adults,” he said. “They are more likely to act on impulse, without fully considering the consequences of their decisions or actions. Videotaping their interviews will help ensure accuracy.”

Specifically, SB 569 will:
   • Require the interrogation of a minor who is suspected or accused of committing homicide to be videotaped by law enforcement agencies statewide.
   • Provide various exceptions from the videotaping requirement.
   • Require the prosecution to show by clear and convincing evidence that an exception applies to justify the failure to make that electronic recording.
   • Require the Judicial Council to develop related jury instructions.

Lieu added that three injustices occur from false confessions: an innocent person is incarcerated; the real perpetrator remains free to commit crimes; the victims’ families are subjected to double emotional trauma – the loss of a loved one and the guilt over the conviction of an innocent child.

SB 569 was co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union; the California Public Defenders Association; and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. It was also supported by the Friends Committee on Legislation of California; the National Association of Social Workers – California Chapter; and Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety.

For more, including a Fact Sheet on SB 569, please visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below.

Ted W. Lieu represents the more than 1 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Beverly Hills, Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Torrance, West Hollywood and the Palos Verdes Peninsula as well as portions of Long Beach and Los Angeles including, Beverly Glenn, Brentwood, Cheviot Hills, Harbor City, Hollywood Hills, Marina del Rey, Mar Vista, Pacific Palisades, Playa del Rey, San Pedro, Venice, Westwood and Wilmington. See a district map HERE: For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu.


MEDIA CONTACT: Ray Sotero
Communications Director
Sen. Ted W. Lieu, Senate District 28
Capitol Building, Room 4061
Sacramento, Calif. 95814
(916) 651-4028 office
www.sen.ca.gov/Lieu