Illinois on Thursday became the first state to bar police officers from lying and using other deceptive tactics when interrogating juveniles.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Robert Peters and Representative Justin Slaughter, both Democrats, was signed into law by the Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, in a news conference. The bill takes effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
The new law targets commonly used deceptive interrogation tactics, such as making false promises of leniency and false claims about the existence of incriminating evidence. False confessions have played a role in about 30 percent of all wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project. Researchers found in recent studies that people under 18 are two to three times more likely to falsely confess than adults.
Mr. Pritzker also signed three other bills, which his office said were intended to collectively advance the rights of the most vulnerable people in Illinois’ justice system. The bills included measures to encourage restorative justice practices, ease reducing sentences after convictions and address mass incarceration.
“An essential tenet of good governance is recognizing the need to change the laws that have failed the people they serve,” Mr. Pritzker said in statement. “Together, these initiatives move us closer to a holistic criminal justice system, one that builds confidence and trust in a system that has done harm to too many people for far too long.”
Kim Foxx, Chicago’s top prosecutor, said on Twitter on Thursday that the day was “about putting words into action as we continue to work to correct the wrongs of the past — wrongs inflicted by law enforcement, including prosecutors.”
Rebecca Brown, the director of policy at the Innocence Project, described the law as a victory in false-confession reform, and noted the organization’s championing of electronic recording of interrogations.
“This law is a breakthrough in safeguarding against the wrongful convictions of young people, and an opportunity to establish interrogation techniques that stem from seeking truth and justice within law enforcement agencies across the country,” Ms. Brown said in a statement.
Among the victims of wrongful conviction attending Thursday news conference was Terrill Swift, whose conviction was vacated in 2011 after 15 years in prison on charges of raping and murdering a Chicago woman, Nina Glover. The judge said that although Mr. Swift and three other men had initially confessed in great detail, DNA recovered from semen in the victim’s body cast significant doubt on the confessions.
“This bill, I truly believe could have saved my life,” Mr. Swift said at the news conference. “When it was first brought to me, it touched me in that sense, that it could have saved my life. But the reality is, I can’t get what I got back. So moving forward I want to try and help make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Mr. Swift said that the bill was a great step, but that more work needed to be done, adding “so many brothers and sisters” were still wrongfully imprisoned. “And we can all agree that one day in prison wrongfully is too long,” he said.