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The Champion

April 2017 , Page 28 

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Gerald Gault, Meet Brendan Dassey: Preventing Juvenile False and Coerced Confessions in the 21st Century

By Laura Nirider, Megan Crane, and Steven Drizin


Editor’s Note: The authors, who created and developed the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth (CWCY) in 2009, represented Brendan Dassey, whose murder confession was the subject of the “Making a Murderer” docuseries. CWCY is the first and only organization dedicated in large part to representing children who falsely confessed to crimes they did not commit. 

In 1964, 15-year-old Gerald Gault was taken into custody by the sheriff of Gila County, a rural jurisdiction about 80 miles east of Phoenix, after a neighbor accused him of making prank telephone calls of the “irritatingly offensive, adolescent, sex variety.” Over the course of the following week, Gerald appeared twice in the chambers of a juvenile court judge, accompanied by his mother, older brother, and two probation officers. Though the hearings were not transcribed, later testimony indicated that the judge questioned Gerald both times about whether he had in fact made the calls. Gerald’s mother recalled that he t

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