The Champion

December 2007 , Page 30 

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The Problem of False Confession in America

By Richard A. Leo

In 1998 two young boys in Chicago – ages seven and eight – were charged with murdering an eleven-year-old girl named Ryan Harris. She had been badly beaten around the head, her underpants had been stuffed into her mouth, and she appeared to have been sexually assaulted. After an unrecorded interrogation, the two boys “confessed” to hitting Harris in the head with a brick (and then stuffing leaves and grass in her nose) in order to steal her bicycle. Largely because of the boys’ ages, the case attracted national media attention. The country was horrified that two prepubescent boys were capable of committing so savage a crime. Although the evidence pointed to an adult sex crime, the police insisted that the two boys were not too young to have done it, and that they knew details that could only be known to the detectives or the perpetrators.

Months later, however, the Illinois State Crime Laboratory discovered semen on Ryan Harris’ underpants – evidence that

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