Recently, the news outlets reported that the Chinese government has revived a Mao-era practice of public confessions called “jiantao”. For purely political reasons, the Chinese government forces individuals to go on television and confess to ‘crimes’ that the State claims have undermined its authority.
Those who have been subjected to making these “voluntary” confessions include Swedish civil rights activist Peter Dahlin and British corporate investigator Peter Humphrey. Anyone who enjoys the freedoms offered by Western liberal democracy obviously knows that these so called confessions were coerced and that the entire show was political theatre with no basis in fact. But the scary part is that innocent suspects, especially in the U.S., who make false confessions (coerced or otherwise) have virtually no protection in the court of law. In other words, those who make confessions under physical and emotional duress will find that their statements will be used against them by the state even if those statements are fabricated and factually falsifiable.
Unfortunately, innocent men and women are routinely convicted for serious crimes after making false confessions simply because government lawyers know that juries have a very hard time believing that innocent people can confess, and therefore present them in spite of evidence to the contrary. But if you believe that Peter Dahlin and Peter Humphrey are innocent of whatever crimes they were charged with – despite their public confessions – then maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at the reality of false confessions in the U.S. criminal justice system.
After all, at least, the Chinese government released the two offenders after their confessions. Had they confessed in the U.S., surely they would have seen some jail time.