After hours of interrogation in 1995, police in Chicago told 17-year-old Terrill Swift he could go home if he admitted being present at the scene of a rape and murder. He went home 17 years later after he was exonerated by DNA evidence. Illinois has now become the first state in the nation to ban police from lying to minors during interrogations, NPR reports. Under a bill signed by Gov. JB Pritzker Thursday, police will no longer be allowed to use common interrogation tactics like falsely telling minors that they can go home if they confess or falsely claiming incriminating evidence exists. As of Jan, 1, confession from suspects under 18 will no longer be admissible in court if an officer "knowingly engages in deception" during interrogation. Experts say the use of such tactics often leads to false confessions, especially from minors.
There have been at least 31 wrongful convictions based on false confessions from minors in Illinois, according to the Innocence Project. The group says the state was once known as the "False Confession Capital of the United States." At the bill signing Thursday, Cook County State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx said false confessions undermine public trust in the legal system—and let the real perpetrators walk free. Swift, one of four Black teens known as the "Englewood Four," who were all exonerated, tells the Daily Herald that he was "hit with a series of lies that I raped and murdered someone" after police took him to a different station than the one they had told his father he was going to. He says that if the measure signed by Pritzker had been the law in 1995, "it could have saved my life." (Read more police interrogation stories.)