Attorney explains why Knysz case needed to be tried despite confession

February 24, 2014

ryan_glanvilleMany readers following the trial against Eric John Knysz have asked why there needs to be a trial since Knysz confessed his crime to the police. We asked attorney Ryan Glanville of Thompson, Thompson and Glanville Attorneys at Law of Ludington to explain this. Glanville is not associated with the case in any way, however he often serves as a criminal defense attorney:

First, keep in mind that everybody has a right to trial and to have the prosecutor prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Second, there are many cases where innocent people have confessed to crimes they did not commit.

Luckily, organizations like the Innocence Project are helping a lot of people prove their innocence through DNA testing that wasn’t available to them at the time they were convicted. These people originally confessed, but then took their confession back at a later time, and their original confessions turned out to be false.

So what we are talking about are what are knows as ‘false confessions.’  Some of the reasons innocent people confess to crimes they did not commit include:

– Duress – They may be under duress placed on them by the police or by other external factor.

– Intoxication – for obvious reasons.

– Mental impairment – The person suffers from a mental disability and does not understand the allegations against him or the questions being asked.

– Promise of leniency – The police may make promises for a confession and a defendant, though innocent, feels that the evidence against them is overwhelming and thinks that by confessing they will get leniency at the charging or sentencing phase of the case.

– Abuse – In the most extreme cases, the confession was the result of physical or mental abuse on the part of the police.  Again, I am not saying that any of these situations did, or did not, occur in this specific case.  I was happy to see that the confession in this case was recorded.  That helps prevent some of the abuses that used to occur in the past.  But you still need to examine what was said or done before the tape recorder was turned on.

These cases are tough for criminal defense attorneys.  But they are tough for all involved.  The defense attorney has to do his job.  A defense attorney is one part of the justice system. Others include law enforcement, the judge, and the prosecuting attorney.  The hope is that everybody does their job to the best of their ability and justice is served.  If somebody does not do their job correctly, innocent people are convicted, or guilty people go free.  Both situations are horrible, but do happen.

Another reason a case may go to trial when the evidence against a defendant seems overwhelming is because he or she has “nothing to lose.” Here the defendant is charged with a capital offense, which in Michigan, means that the person will serve the rest of their life in jail with no chance of ever getting out. There is no death penalty in Michigan, so a defendant charged with a capital offense is looking at the worst possible sentence he can get in Michigan.  If a prosecutor does not offer any plea bargain, which I would guess in the case here, a defendant has nothing to lose by taking it to trial.

Ryan T. Glanville, 111 E. Court St., PO Box 609, Ludington, MI 49431

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