Role of False Confessions

7239 Words Apr 2nd, 2016 29 Pages
Introduction
Would you ever admit to committing a crime that you didn’t actually commit? Of course not, says common sense. Naturally, it is difficult to understand why anyone would confess to a crime they didn’t commit. However, false confessions are one the leading causes of wrongful convictions.1 As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in R v. Oickle, innocent people are induced to make false confessions more frequently than those unacquainted with the phenomenon might expect.2
In North America, we can trace the existence of false confessions back to the Salem Witch Trials, where a number of women were persecuted for witchcraft on the basis of confessions that were obtained through torture and threats.3 More recent false confessions have
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7 Amelia Hritz, Michal Blau & Sara Tomezsko, “False Confessions” online: Cornell University Law School
<http://courses2.cit.cornell.edu/sociallaw/student_projects/FalseConfessions.html>.
8 Supra note 2 at 37.
9 Ibid.
10 Richard A. Leo, Wrongly Convicted Perspectives on Failed Justice: False Confessions, Causes, Consequences, and Solutions by Saundra D. Westervelt & John A. Humphrey (New Jersey, USA: Rutgers University Press, 2005) at 42-44 [Leo, “Wrongly Convicted Perspectives].
11 Supra note 2 at 38.
12 Ibid at 38.
13 Ibid at 39.
14 Ibid at 40.
15 Leo, “Wrongly Convicted Perspectives” supra note 10 at 43-44.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.

Why do False Confessions lead to Wrongful Convictions?
False confessions have undeniably had a significant impact on wrongful convictions. For example, of the Innocence Project’s first 225 exonerations through DNA evidence, 23% of wrongful convictions were based
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