Vulnerable and Valued: Protecting Youth from the Perils of Custodial Interrogation

Kristin Henning and Rebba Omer

Executive Summary

This article advocates for judicial and legislative reforms that will ensure all youth are protected from the harms of coercive police interrogation. Drawing upon the substantial body of research on adolescent development and the growing body of research on racial bias and the experiences of youth of color, this article finds that current Arizona law leaves youth vulnerable to wrongful convictions and trauma caused by coercive interrogation practices. Arizona courts must ensure that all youth confessions were knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Judges cannot be confident that a child’s confession was not the result of coercion or confusion without first thoroughly considering the impact of the child’s race and adolescence on all the circumstances surrounding the interrogation. While courts are an important last line of defense in preventing wrongful convictions against youth, attorneys should be the first. Arizona must protect children from the trauma of coercive interrogations by ensuring all children are provided attorneys before they are interrogated.

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