A reader writes:
Balko’s piece moved me to write, but my point has more to do with your drumbeat about the terrible consequences of torture. As a young lawyer, I helped represent a man who had pleaded guilty to first degree murder several years earlier, and who was clearly innocent. It was a terrible crime in a small town, and the awkward, developmentally disabled kid made for a good suspect. After several hours of ridiculously comic interrogation, the young man “confessed” after the police convinced him that he would get the death penalty if he didn’t take responsibility for the crime.
That’s a common theme in cases of false confession: If someone is afraid for his life, he’ll tell you anything you want to hear, even if it means a lifetime in prison.
Luckily, after a decade behind bars, my client was granted his release upon a showing of actual innocence. But the lesson wasn’t lost on me when the Bush/Cheney torture techniques came to light. If the threat of being put to death some time in the future can elicit a false confession, imagine what the sensation of imminent drowning can do.