For too long, young people suspected of crimes in the U.S. have been subjected to coercive and deceptive interrogation techniques. These troubling practices are the norm in many jurisdictions today, despite studies showing that youth are uniquely susceptible to – and often suffer greater harm as a result of – these tactics. As evidenced by many high-profile cases such as the Exonerated Central Park Five, coerced and false confessions from youth have led to gross miscarriages of justice that undermine public safety and erode trust in the criminal legal system.
The U.S. is an international outlier when it comes to its youth interrogation practices, and some states and policy leaders have started to advance reforms designed to address these concerns and safeguard children’s rights. Even with this engagement, there is much more work to be done to align our nation’s practices with humane and evidence-based approaches.
In a webinar to be held on Wednesday, March 9th, Fair Trials and Fair and Just Prosecution will bring together national and international criminal justice experts and leaders to discuss long overdue reforms needed to ensure adequate protections for, and fair treatment of, young people throughout the interrogation process. The discussion will highlight best practices, key principles, and national reforms – including ensuring access to adequate counsel, providing developmentally appropriate Miranda warnings, and mandating humane conditions during questioning of youth – aimed at avoiding injustices arising from the coercive interrogation of young people.
Speakers will include:
- Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx
Kimberly M. Foxx is the first African American woman to lead the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – the country’s second-largest prosecutor’s office. State’s Attorney Foxx was elected to her second term in November 2020. Her vision is to build the most just, equitable, and transparent prosecutor’s office in the country, by working proactively to make all communities safe while investing in policies to address the underlying drivers of contact with the criminal justice system. Foxx has brought substantial progress in priority areas including wrongful convictions, bond reform, transparency, and gun violence. Born and raised in Cabrini Green on Chicago’s Near North Side, she is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science and a J.D. from the School of Law.
- FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
Ms. Krinsky is the Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a network of elected reform-minded prosecutors around the U.S. She previously served for 15 years as a federal prosecutor, both in Los Angeles and on an organised crime and narcotics task force in the Mid-Atlantic region. She also previously headed a legal services organisation that represented children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, taught law school and lectured nationwide, and spent five years working on policing reform.
- Professor Laura H. Nirider
Ms. Nirider is a Clinical Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. She has represented many individuals who were wrongfully convicted of crimes when they were children or teenagers, including Brendan Dassey (whose case was profiled in the Netflix Gloval series Making a Murderer), and Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three (whose case was profiled in the documentary West of Memphis).
- Professor and former Royal Air Force Police Officer Gavin E. Oxburgh
Dr. Oxburgh is a Registered Forensic Psychologist, a Professor of Police Science, and the Assistant Director of The Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research at Northumbria University, UK. He is a 22-year veteran of the Royal Air Force Police, where he was a senior detective specialising in child protection and sexual offences. He currently provides expert advice and guidance in legal cases in the UK and across Europe relating to false and recovered memory, child abuse, and sexual offences.
- Fair Trials Legal Director for the Americas Rebecca Shaeffer
Ms. Shaeffer leads Fair Trials’ Washington office, using learning from European and global justice movements to support reform efforts in the U.S. and Latin America. She is the lead author of recent reports on comparative practice in pre-trial detention decision making, global plea bargaining, and access to a lawyer in police custody. She is a member of the Steering Committee for an International Protocol on Non-Coercive Investigative Interviewing, led by former UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez.
- Terrill Swift
Terrill Swift is an exoneree who spent over 15 years incarcerated in prison for a crime he did not commit. In March of 1995, at the age of 17, he was arrested and interrogated for the rape/murder of a woman. Terrill and three other teenagers, who came to be known as the Englewood Four, signed false confessions after being subjected to isolation, intimidation, and coercion by the Chicago Police Department. Despite the lack of any evidence, all four teenagers were convicted solely on the basis of their false confessions. While in prison, Terrill committed himself to education, earning an Associate’s Degree, and wrote countless organizations and attorneys for legal assistance. In 2009, the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions took on Terrill’s case, fought for additional DNA testing that identified the perpetrator – a man with a long criminal record who had been interviewed at the crime scene – and secured exonerations for Terrill and his co-defendants in 2012. Since then, Terrill has used his experience to advocate for reforms to youth interrogation practices, and played a key role in pushing Illinois to become the first state to pass legislation banning the use of deception in youth interrogations.
For more on these issues, read FJP’s white paper, Youth Interrogation: Key Principles and Policy Recommendations, which includes important national standards and best practices for law enforcement, prosecutors, and policymakers to safeguard the rights of young people during questioning.
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