For Immediate Release
CONFESSION RULING IS A VICTORY FOR VICTIMS
A.G.'S OFFICE WIN WILL ALSO HELP PROSECUTORS
Jurors will now have a better chance of hearing whether or not a defendant confessed to a crime. The Utah Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a prosecutor can use a confession simply if it is "trustworthy." The old standard required independent evidence of the crime before a confession could be admitted into evidence.
Assistant Attorney General Christopher Ballard says the ruling is an important victory for victims because it will make it easier to prosecute cases involving sexual abuse-where there isn't any physical evidence of abuse; infanticide-where it is impossible to tell if the baby was intentionally suffocated or died of natural causes; conspiracy-where the crime was never actually committed; and cases of attempt-where the intended crime was never completed.
The ruling will also make it more difficult for jurors to hear a false confession. The old standard allowed a prosecutor to introduce any confession if there was evidence that a crime was committed.
"Jurors will be better equipped to learn the truth," says Ballard. "Reliable confessions that otherwise would have been excluded are now admissible and unreliable confessions are now more likely to be inadmissable."
The confession issue was raised after Brent Mauchley filed an insurance claim for alleged injuries caused by falling into an uncovered manhole on August 17, 1998. Mauchley was charged with insurance fraud and theft by deception after he confessed to the South Salt Lake City Police Department that he made up the story after he saw the open manhole.
The justices ruled that the new trustworthiness standard could not be applied retroactively in Mauchley's case. Nevertheless, they threw out the corpus delicti (body of the crime) rule for future defendants.
"Given the rule's limited usefulness in protecting the innocent, we conclude its detrimental effect on the administration of justice is too high," wrote Associate Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant. "It has outlived its usefulness."
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is praising the decision. "This ruling is a victory for victims, prosecutors and the falsely accused. It is a triumph for justice."