Vol. 80, No. 5, May 2007
The Wisconsin Criminal Justice Study Commission was formed in 2005 by the U.W. Law School, Marquette Law School, the State Bar of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The commission's purpose is to study issues affecting the accuracy of the criminal justice system in order to ensure that the system convicts the guilty, and only the guilty. Its membership includes judges, prosecutors, police officers, defense attorneys, victims' advocates, academics, and community leaders from outside the justice system. The commission's chair is retired Milwaukee County Judge Michael Malmstadt.
The commission members decided to consider false confessions for several reasons. First, confession evidence is both a common way of convicting the guilty and a leading cause of wrongful convictions, making it an important subject for those studying the system's accuracy. Second, in light of new rules requiring electronic recording of custodial interrogations, it seemed an appropriate time to provide guidance on how best to interrogate suspects in a recorded environment.
The commission's full "Report on False Confessions" was drafted at the commission members' direction by the commission's staff attorney, Byron Lichstein, after the commission heard from numerous experts, both academics and practitioners, and reviewed extensive literature on the subject. A list of all the references consulted by the commission is available as part of the full report.