False Confession

3680 Words Mar 9th, 2013 15 Pages
CU R RE N T D I R E CT I O NS IN P SYC H OL OGI C AL SC I EN C E

False Confessions
Causes, Consequences, and Implications for Reform
Saul M. Kassin John Jay College of Criminal Justice

ABSTRACT—Despite

the commonsense belief that people do not confess to crimes they did not commit, 20 to 25% of all DNA exonerations involve innocent prisoners who confessed. After distinguishing between voluntary, compliant, and internalized false confessions, this article suggests that a sequence of three processes is responsible for false confessions and their adverse consequences. First, police sometimes target innocent people for interrogation because of erroneous judgments of truth and deception. Second, innocent people sometimes confess as a
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After lengthy interrogations, during which Crowe was misled into thinking there was substantial physical evidence of his guilt, he concluded that he was a killer: ‘‘I’m not sure how I did it. All I know is I did it’’ (Drizin & Colgan, 2004, p. 141). Eventually, he was convinced that he had a split personality—that ‘‘bad Michael’’ acted out of jealous rage while ‘‘good Michael’’ blocked the incident from consciousness. The charges against Crowe were later dropped when a drifter from the neighborhood was found with Crowe’s sister’s blood on his clothing.

Volume 17—Number 4

Copyright r 2008 Association for Psychological Science

249

False Confessions

Inspired by tales of innocents wrongfully convicted, recent research has focused on three sets of questions: (a) Why are innocent people often misidentified for interrogation, (b) what factors put innocent suspects at risk to confess, and (c) how accurate are police, juries, and others at judging confession evidence?
WHY INNOCENT PEOPLE ARE INTERROGATED

TABLE 1 Ten Most Frequent Interrogation Practices, as Self-Reported by 631 North American Detectives (Kassin et al., 2007) Tactic Isolating the suspect from family and friends Conducting interrogation in a small private room Identifying contradictions in the suspect’s story Establishing rapport/gaining the suspect’s trust Confronting the suspect with evidence of guilt Appealing to the suspect’s self-interest Offering sympathy, moral justifications, & excuses
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