Rivera v. Illinois

Brief Filed: 7/10
Court: Appellate Court of Illinois, Second Judicial District
Year of Decision: 2011

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 1MB)


At issue before the Court is the reliability of a legally voluntary confession in light of new evidence of innocence

Index topic

False Confessions


In this case, despite conclusive DNA testing that proved that Juan Rivera was innocent, he was retried and convicted of raping and murdering an eleven year old. Rivera has gone through multiple appeals courts, but he was convicted for a third time. The court refused to allow expert testimony about the scientific research regarding false confessions. That issue along with others is now on appeal again and it is at this stage that the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions requested an amicus brief from APA. 

APA’s position

Consistent with the APA Division 41 white paper on false confessions and the three prior briefs filed by APA (Wright v. Pennsylvania, Floyd v. Louisiana, and Warney v. New York) on this topic, the APA brief addresses research regarding false confessions generally, situational factors (e.g., length of interrogation, lying about evidence of guilt) and dispositional factors (mental illness, low IQ) that contribute to false confessions. In addition, the brief (like the other briefs we have filed) explains research showing that police, judges and jurors have difficulty assessing the truth of a confession, and that a false confession can overcome other evidence of innocence in the case. The brief further explains that the body of research on these points has developed significantly since 1998 and that the fact-finders would be assisted in doing their job by allowing expert testimony on this research.     


On Dec. 9, 2011, Rivera's conviction was unanimously reversed due to insufficiency of evidence. Accordingly, they did not reach the remaining issues. However, the court acknowledged in its decision that "innocent people do confess to crimes they did not commit," and proceeded to give several reasons why.