Man wrongfully sent to prison for 9 years on false confession

While our blog has talked extensively about how important it is for Minneapolis and St. Paul residents charged with a crime to seek out the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the following story shows just what can go wrong if you do not ask for a lawyer immediately after being arrested. Though the story does not happen in Minnesota, it is important reminder that it is essential to understand your rights and the legal ramifications of talking to police.

In 1996, a man was arrested on a charge of attempted murder after his wife sustained serious injuries in a violent assault. The man was quickly convicted of attempted murder and sent to prison, and it wasn’t until 2005 that he was released based on another’s confession. In 2003, another man admitted that it was he who found himself in the family’s apartment and clubbed the woman with a hammer.

So, why was the woman’s husband convicted in the first place? The man says that police coerced a confession from him, which was subsequently used to convict him. Although the police and prosecutors deny this, there appears to be very few other reasons as to why he would confess to something he did not do.

Had the man asked for a criminal defense lawyer immediately upon arrest, his attorney would have explained that the police will use anything that he says against him. In addition, a lawyer could be present during all questioning, telling the man which questions he did not have to answer.

It is unknown if the man had a lawyer at the time of his arrest, but this story does demonstrate why it is important for anyone charged with a violent assault to get legal help.

Source: The Syracuse Post-Standard, “Wrongly imprisoned nearly a decade, father plays catch-up with his five kids,” John O’Brien, May 13, 2013

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.