Confessions in an International Age: Re-Examining Admissibility Through the Lens of Foreign Interrogations

Julie Tanaka Siegel*

In Colorado v. Connelly the Supreme Court held that police misconduct is necessary for an inadmissible confession. Since the Connelly decision, courts and scholars have framed the admissibility of a confession in terms of whether it successfully deters future police misconduct. As a result, the admissibility of a confession turns largely on whether U.S. police acted poorly, and only after overcoming this threshold have courts considered factors pointing to the reliability and voluntariness of the confession. In the international context, this translates into the routine and almost mechanic admission of confessions— even when there is clear indication that the confession is coerced or unreliable. Confessions obtained by foreign officers seldom meet the Connelly threshold because the United States has neither the ability, nor the goal, of controlling foreign police conduct. In light of the international context, courts should reexamine the Connelly test, which is not in line with the fundamental ideals of justice and fairness that the U.S. Constitution protects. Courts should tailor a test focused on the reliability of the confession in order to protect the defendant’s fundamental rights.

* J.D. Candidate, May 2017, University of Michigan Law School. I would like to thank my family and friends for all of their support. I would also like to thank Professors Eve Primus and Sherman Clark for their thoughtful feedback, and the members of Michigan Law Review, particularly Katherine Canny, Evan Lum, Erin Chapman, Sarah Scheinman, Andi Scanlan, and Kate Bailey for their helpful comments.

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