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In a recent 60 minutes segment titled “Chicago: False Confession Capitol,” Byron Pitts interviewed seven men who were wrongly convicted. What the seven have in common is they were all convicted based on false confessions given to Chicago police.

Why would anyone confess to a crime they did not commit? It happens so often in Chicago, defense attorneys call the city the false confession capital of the United States. Chicago has twice as many documented false confession cases as any city in the country. One reason may be the way police go about questioning suspects. And 60 Minutes has learned the Chicago Police Department is now the subject of a Justice Department investigation into its interrogation practices.

Two of the men, James Harden and Terrell Swift, both minors at the time were told they would be able to go home if they signed a confession. Terrell Swift asked for his mother so she could get a lawyer. The interrogators ignored the request.

According to the co-founder of the Innocence Project, Peter Nuefeld, the Chicago police target juveniles in particular.

Peter Neufeld: There are more juvenile false confessions in Chicago than any place in the United States. What’s happening? It’s not because the kids are different that makes them more vulnerable to confessing. It’s because the way the police keep pounding and pounding and pounding away in those interrogation rooms. You get innocent kids to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

In one of the cases, the DNA of a convicted serial rapist was found at the scene. Despite that, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez still believes the false confessions.

Byron Pitts: You find out years later that, in fact, the DNA found inside the victim’s body belonged to Johnny Douglas. And Johnny Douglas is a convicted serial rapist and murderer. That doesn’t tell you that he most likely is the person who killed this woman?

Anita Alvarez: No. It doesn’t. Is he a bad guy? Absolutely, he is. Absolutely. But, can we prove, just by someone’s bad background, that they committed this particular crime? It takes much more than that.

The courts eventually vacated all the convictions based on DNA evidence. They were given certificates of innocence. Alvarez continues to believe the men are guilty.

According to the segment, more than 85 convictions have been overturned in Illinois since 1989, many as a result of police misconduct.

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