John C. Sheldon


By admitting to the police Inspector that he murdered two people, Raskolnikov delivers literature's mist famous criminal confession. The Inspector has done virtually nothing to procure the confession; all he did was tell Raskolnikov that he knows Raskolnikov committed the murder. The marvel of the Crime and Punishment is its exploration of Raskolnikov's relentless, multi-faceted conscience, which alone drives him to admit his guilt. Would Raskolnikov's confession be admissible under Maine law? It depends. Here, from its 2013 decision in State v. Wiley,2 is how the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, states the pertinent law: A confession is admissible in evidence only if it was given voluntarily, and the State has the burden to prove voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt3. . . . A confession is voluntary if it results from the free choice of a rational mind, if it is not a product of coercive police conduct, and if under all the circumstances its admission would be fundamentally fair.4 Whether Raskolnikov's confession is the product of "the free choice of a rational mind" hinges on one's point of view. Yes, because the Inspector did not provoke it. No, because Raskolnikov was mentally tortured, and a confession induced by torture cannot be a "free" choice. Given that the State has to prove the voluntariness of Raskolniov's confession "beyond a reasonable doubt," the chances are that Raskolniov wins the motion to suppress in our Law Court.5

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