Constitution Day 2013 – False Confessions: When the Innocent Confess and the Guilty Go Free

  • September 17, 2013
  • 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

On September 17, 2013, from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., The Constitution Project (TCP) will present its annual Constitutional Commentary Award to the award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns and his colleagues for their documentary, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE. Ken Burns will be present to accept the award and will participate in a Constitution Day panel discussion focusing on wrongful convictions, and more specifically false confessions.

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE tells the story of five teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989, in part, based upon their false confessions.  But unfortunately, their case is not an anomaly – false confessions are one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions in this country.  The panel discussion will explore the phenomenon of innocent people confessing to crimes they did not commit and policies that can be adopted to help fix the problem.  There are various factors that contribute to false confessions – the age and mental state of the suspect, police interrogation tactics – but research shows that practical steps can be taken to protect the innocent while improving policing capabilities and the justice system as a whole.  The panel will explore the various best practices being adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country to help prevent the tragedy of wrongful convictions.

Please join TCP for what promises to be a riveting panel discussion on the role false confessions play in wrongful convictions. The event will be webcast live and is open to the public for those who are able to attend in person. Excerpts from the film THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE will also be part of the programming.

Seating is limited. Please RSVP in advance to reserve a seat for this event.


Constitutional Commentary Award Presentation & Panel Discussion
A live webcast will be available.


Ken Burns, Filmmaker, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE
Carrie Johnson, NPR (moderator)
Shawn Armbrust, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project
Saul Kassin, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
James Trainum, Retired Detective, Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia


Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Reception begins at 11:30am
Program from 12:00pm to 2:00pm


Arent Fox, LLP
1717 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
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“It was torture,” TCP's independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon Task Force on Detainee Treatment concluded in a report released April 16, 2013. The group looked at the federal government's policies and actions related to the detention and treatment of suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere and held in U.S. custody during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. Read More...