Guy confesses to a crime, then says nothing.

A crime occurs, something major like a murder an there are no suspects and no witnesses.
One day a guy walks into a police station and confesses to the crime, admitting full responsibility but the shuts rights up offering no motive, explanation or detail on the crime. He doesn’t lie or tell any truths, he just says nothing after the initial confession.

For the sake of argument there is no DNA evidence of this person at the crime scene, nor of anyone else other than the victim.

So, does our guy get charged and taken to court solely based on his confession or due to lack of any additional evidence let go.

I’d be interested in hearing opinions from a British legal point of view as well as other countries.

As far as I know, confession alone is never enough in the States to convict of a crime without corroborating evidence, at least in the majority of cases. Of course the evidence can be set up and presented during trial to look like whomever confessed did do it, even in false confessions situations, and people get convicted anyway. So even in cases where it looks like there is no evidence other than a confessions, evidence can be provided…if you know what I mean.

Also certain crimes have statute of limitations, so if f person confesses and enough time has passed since the crime it doesn’t matter. He could be definitively guilty and get away with it anyway. Also, in murder trials for example, if a guy gets off and found not guilty, then turns around and writes a tell all book ala OJ Simpson there is no recourse for the legal system to try him again criminally for murder.

Unlikely they could convict. The defendant’s defense can produce plenty of reasonable doubt if the prosecution can’t provide any other evidence.

As we don’t try dead people the situation you describe only exists in a vacuum. If the defendant remains completely mute after the confession and doesn’t communicate anything he’s going to be committed to a mental institution regardless of a trial.

Sometimes they might prosecute, but quite often the Judge will demand an explanation of the crime. If the suspect claims guilt but fails to explain the crime, or their explanation is at odds with known facts, then it will be judged a false confession.

An earlier thread that may be of interest: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=637594

For many notorious crimes, like a murder, there are often several people who ‘walk into a police station and confess to the crime’. Police investigators are quite used to this. Thus they frequently keep certain details of the crime out of the news media – it provides them some things they can ask about, where only the killer would know the answers. If the confessee can’t answer those, or refuses to answer, they will look for other evidence before attempting a prosecution. (They only get one chance, you know.)

If they find evidence that this person could NOT have committed the crime, and the police qre annoyed at the waste of resources, they may ask the DA to prosecute him for false statements or interfering with a police investigation or something similar.

Whatever happened to that fruitbasket who confessed to the Jon Benet Ramsey murder a few years back? Did they ever make him reimburse the taxpayers for all the money he cost them?

I didn’t see it mentioned in the thread linked by Elendil’s Heir, so . . .

Convictions still have to be on the evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if you present no defense and your confession is admitted (admission against interest, a hearsay rule exception), the prosecutor still has to make a case that meets that standard and I can’t think of any situation where a bare admission of guilt, with nothing more, no circumstantial evidence, no motive, etc, could be seen, even on appeal, to do so.

Thanks all, makes sense.

Marry Christmas.

Isn’t this what happened to G. Dep?

He confessed to a murder, pleaded not guilty, and then was convicted at trial.

Or did he provide convincing evidence?

IIRC, he shot an unknown guy 17 years earlier and didn’t even know if he killed him. I’m not saying he didn’t commit the crime, but I would say there could be some reasonable doubt in the case of young drug dealer shooting some unknown bum/druggie in the projects. Supposedly he even tried to confess earlier but they would not accept the confession because he was drugged up and crazy. The victim’s family didn’t appreciate ( I think the victim’s brother was quoted in the paper as saying “that guy can go fuck himself” or similar) the confession, either.

There are plenty of people who were coerced into false confessions and then convicted, and since they didn’t do the crime there clearly can’t be other evidence of their personal guilt. So, yes, it is certainly possible to convict with no evidence other than a confession.

I don’t see how this is any different than conviction based solely on the testimony of a single eyewitness who happens NOT to be the perpetrator. It’s not too common, but it happens, and the jury can choose to believe it’s the truth or a mistake or a lie, and vote accordingly.

If you don’t distinguish between good evidence and bad evidence, then it will seem like a miscarriage of justice if not a blatant contradiction in many cases. In fact if you talk to people like the Innocence Project, you’ll probably walk away believing that’s the norm, and although it I doubt things are quite that bad, they are pretty bad sometimes.

The point I was making was that there is a standard that is SUPPOSED to be followed and if it is, then I really and honestly don’t believe it’s possible. But that’s ONLY if it’s followed.

Has anyone ever served on jury duty? What do you think the odds are that it would be every single time?

For another country view, the (warning: PDF link follows) South Korean constitution states in Article 12(7) that the antagonist/protagonist of your story cannot be convicted on the basis of his confession alone. There must be corroborating evidence to secure a conviction.

The difference is that in the OP, the single eyewitness who claims to be the perpetrator isn’t testifying, and can’t be made to testify.

In South Africa, where the criminal law is mostly British-influenced, section 209 of the Criminal Procedure Act provides:

In your hypothetical, I would take the dead body (with appropriate autopsy results) to be sufficient evidence to prove that a murder was committed. A confession would then be sufficient to convict. On the other hand, if someone walked into a police station and confessed to a murder, and there was no evidence that any murder ever happened, he could not be convicted.

However, a confession made to a police officer is not admissible unless it is later confirmed and signed in front of a judge or magistrate, So if the arrestee refused to do or say anything when brought before the magistrate, then his confession would be inadmissible.

Assuming the confession is allowed as evidence, that is testimony, though I’m sure a lawyer will come along and tell me that from a legal standpoint I’m wrong.

This is not logically sound.

By your logic, anyone who has any evidence at all against them has to be guilty, since there can never be any evidence against anyone who didn’t do the crime.

In reality, the exact opposite of your claim is true. Generally, people who are coerced into confessing have other evidence of their guilt. This is why they are forced into confessing - because the police already believe they are guilty, based on the other evidence.

Just asking, F-P, but where were you in the umberufen thread?

Unaware of it. :slight_smile: