The suspect may perceive that he has no choice but to comply with the detectivesâ wishes, because he is fatigued, worn down, or simply sees no other way to escape an intolerably stressful experience. They all converge on the same conclusion: that, as the U.S. Supreme Court stated in the case of Arizona v. Fulminante, âa confession is like no other evidence.â57 It is âuniquely potentâ58 in its ability to bias the trier of fact in favor of the prosecution, overwrite contradictory or exculpatory case evidence, and lead to the wrongful conviction of the innocent.8 Researchers have demonstrated that mock jurors find confession evidence more incriminating than any other type of evidence.44,58 Kassin and Sukel55 found that confessions powerfully increased the conviction rate even when mock jurors viewed the confession as coerced, even when they were instructed to disregard the confession as inadmissible, and even when they reported that it had no influence on their verdict. The suspect remains in an uncertain belief state, because he still has no memory of committing the crime. In the past two decades, hundreds of convicted prisoners have been exonerated by DNA and non-DNA evidence, revealing that police-induced false confessions are a leading cause of wrongful conviction of the innocent. In this article, empirical research on the causes and correlates of false confessions is reviewed. Voluntary false confessions are self-incriminating statements that are offered to police without external pressure. Although researchers and scholars have long documented the problem of wrongful conviction,3 the use of DNA testing to exonerate innocent prisoners and the sustained media attention that it has received has increased public recognition that the criminal justice system often convicts the wrong people.4 Although the number of wrongful convictions continues to mount, the DNA exonerations represent only a small part of a much larger problem. Coerced-compliant false confessions are the most common type of false confession. It is important to emphasize, however, that police elicit most false confessions from mentally normal individuals.5,8 For example, Drizin and Leo,5 in a study of 125 proven false confessions, showed that more than 70 percent were given by mentally normal individuals (i.e., neither developmentally disabled nor mentally ill). Youth is also a significant risk factor for police-induced false confessions.28,29 Many of the developmental traits that characterize the developmentally disabled may also characterize young children and adolescents. Voluntary- This type of confession is made without any pressure from the outside. Coercion and compliance: the psychology of police confessions, in The Triple Revolution. Most voluntary false confessions are the result of the person wanting to become famous. False confessions raise important questions for social scientists, mental health professionals, policy-makers, and the public. Great Britain has adopted several reforms, based on growing documentation and awareness of the problem of false confessions.9 American law enforcement, however, remains steeped in the use of investigative methods and interrogation techniques that continue to cause the three errors that produce false confessions, and the American public continues to believe in the myth of psychological interrogation. These are cases, and they often happen in high-profile cases that are in the news, where people come out of the woodwork and volunteer confessions to crimes that are in the news that they didn’t commit. Most voluntary false confessions are the result of the person wanting to become famous. Finally, even in disputed confession cases in which researchers are able to obtain primary case materials, it may still be difficult to determine unequivocally the ground truth (i.e., what really happened) with sufficient certainty to prove the confession false. He may believe that if he thinks hard enough, searches his mind, or tries to imagine himself committing the crime, he will somehow be able to remember it and supply the desired details; but he does not remember the crime. If one understands the psychological structure and logic of contemporary interrogation, it is not difficult to see how it can produce this effect. Persons at risk during interviews in police custody: the identification of vulnerabilities. Even defense attorneys treat suspects who confess more harshly, often pressuring them to accept a guilty plea to a lesser charge to avoid the higher sentence that will inevitably follow from a jury conviction.51,52 As the California Supreme Court has noted, âthe confession operates as a kind of evidentiary bombshell which shatters the defense.â53 American judges too tend to presume that a defendant who has confessed is guilty and, accordingly, treat him more punitively. They are therefore less likely to resist the pressures of confrontational police questioning and more likely to comply with the demands of their accusers, even if this means knowingly making a false confession. These have been referred to as the misclassification error, the coercion error, and the contamination error.7. Instead, the suspect either guesses or confabulates about how the crime could have occurred, repeats the details that the police have suggested to him, knowingly makes up the details, or tries to infer them from the interrogatorsâ suggestions. First, researchers cannot identify (and thus cannot randomly sample) the universe of false confessions, because no governmental or private organization keeps track of this information. Most people get it right at rates that are no better than chance (i.e., 50%) or the flip of a coin.15 Moreover, specific studies of police interrogators have found that they cannot reliably distinguish between truthful and false denials of guilt at levels greater than chance; indeed, they routinely make erroneous judgments.16,17 The method of behavior analysis taught by the police training firm Reid and Associates has been found empirically to lower judgment accuracy, leading Kassin and Fong to conclude that âthe Reid technique may not be effectiveâand, indeed, may be counterproductiveâas a method of distinguishing truth and deceptionâ (Ref. 14, p 124). At some point, however, the suspect realizes that they are not going to credit his assertions of innocence. The suspect may, for example, simply be the most readily noticed person who fits a very general description given by an eyewitness or others. Beginning with the Salem witch trials of 1692, numerous false confessions surfaced when it was later discovered that the confessed crime had not been committed (e.g., the alleged victim turned up alive) or that it was physically impossible (e.g., the confessor was demonstrably elsewhere) or when the real perpetrator was apprehended (e.g., by ballistics evidence). [In the case of Lowery v. County of Riley, 522 F.3d 1086 (10th Cir. There is minimal to no pressure from the police because the person usually confesses right away (Schwartz, 2016, p. 36). Such reforms, however, are likely to occur slowly in the United States. Innocent persons may be mistakenly targeted for suspicion and misclassified as guilty suspects for other reasons. 34 Most voluntary false confessions appear to result from an underlying psychological disturbance or psychiatric disorder. Compliant false confessions are those in which the person confesses: The classic example of a compliant false confession is the 1989 case of a female jogger was beaten, raped and left for dead in New York City's Central Park in which five teenagers gave detailed videotaped confessions of the crime. Interrogators help create the false confession by pressuring the suspect to accept a particular account and by suggesting facts of the crime to him, thereby contaminating the suspect's postadmission narrative. In recent years, the media have reported numerous high-profile cases in which individuals were convicted of and incarcerated for serious crimes they did not commit, only later to be exonerated.1 Many, though not most, of these exonerations occurred after postconviction DNA evidence established innocence of those convicted.2 In some of these cases, such as the Central Park Jogger case in New York City, the DNA evidence established the innocence of multiple defendants who had been wrongly prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated. The third degree and the origins of psychological police interrogation in the United States, in Interrogations, Confessions, and Entrapment. Highly suggestible or compliant individuals are not the only ones who are unusually vulnerable to the pressures of police interrogation. Most false confession cases involve police interrogations. Custodial interrogation is inherently stressful, anxiety-provoking, and unpleasant. There are three general classifications of false confessions: Voluntary confessions: These are false confessions that are made freely, without any prompting or coercions by the police Still used today, this classiﬁcation scheme has provided an important framework and has since been used, critiqued, extended, and reﬁned in subtle ways (Kassin & Wrightsman, 1985). As a result, empirical researchers have also suggested ways to minimize both the number of false confessions that police elicit and the number of false confessions that, once elicited, lead to wrongful convictions. Interrogation techniques are meant to cause the suspect to perceive that his guilt has been established beyond any conceivable doubt, that no one will believe his claims of innocence, and that by continuing to deny the detectivesâ accusations he will only make his situation (and the ultimate outcome of the case against him) much worse. Usually these amount to the same thing. Once they have elicited a false admission, they pressure the suspect to provide a postadmission narrative that they jointly shape, often supplying the innocent suspect with the (public and nonpublic) facts of the crime. American police are taught, falsely, that they can become human lie detectors capable of distinguishing truth from deception at high, if not near perfect, rates of accuracy. To understand why criminal suspects give false confessions, we must first understand how police investigators target criminal suspects and how police interrogation works as a psychological process, before eliciting a suspect's admission and in the postadmission stage of interrogation. Voluntary False Confession – a false confession knowingly given in response to little or no police pressure. A person voluntary decides to confess they committed a crime they didn't actually commit due to low intellectual disability or poor understanding. 41, p 155). After a description of the three sequential processes that are responsible for the elicitation of false confessionsâmisclassification, coercion, and contaminationâthe three psychologically distinct types of false confession (voluntary, compliant, and persuaded) are discussed along with the consequences of introducing false-confession evidence in the criminal justice system. I thank Alan Law for research assistance. There have been numerous documented cases of false confessions from the developmentally disabled in recent years.5. They simply lack the psychological resources to withstand the same level of pressure, distress, and anxiety as mentally normal individuals.26,27 As a result, they tend to avoid conflict. Investigators first misclassify an innocent person as guilty; they next subject him to a guilt-presumptive, accusatory interrogation that invariably involves lies about evidence and often the repeated use of implicit and explicit promises and threats as well. Some suspects come to believe that the only way they will be able to leave is if they do what the detectives say. False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications, Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online. Innocence Project cases have shown that youth, mental health issues and aggressive law enforcement tactics contribute to many false confessions. Under to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, due process requires that all confessions obtained by the police must be voluntary. 10 Controversial Convictions Based on False Confessions. Various reasons have been given to explain this type of confession. Youth (especially young children) also lack the cognitive capacity and judgment to understand the nature or gravity of an interrogation or the long-term consequences of their responses to police questions. Such false … However, social scientific studies have repeatedly demonstrated across a variety of contexts that people are poor human lie detectors and thus are highly prone to error in their judgment about whether an individual is lying or telling the truth. When a suspect perceives that he has no choice but to comply, his resultant compliance and confession are, by definition, involuntary and the product of coercion.20, Even though psychological coercion is the primary cause of police-induced false confessions, individuals differ in their ability to withstand interrogation pressure and thus in their susceptibility to making false confessions.9 All other things being equal, those who are highly suggestible or compliant are more likely to confess falsely. Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice (ed 2). In the Central Park Jogger case, for example, all five juveniles falsely confessed after lengthy unrecorded interrogations in which they were yelled at, lied to, threatened, and promised immunity in exchange for their admissions to participating in the assault and rape.5 In 15 to 20 percent of the DNA cases, police-induced false confessions were the primary cause of the wrongful conviction.6,7 Here too, however, the documented cases appear to represent the proverbial tip of the iceberg, as the DNA exonerations again do not include most cases in which there is no DNA to test. Saul M. Kassin and Gisli H. Gudjonsson. Miranda's Waning Protections: Police Interrogation Practices After Dickerson. Most voluntary false confessions are the result of the person wanting to become famous. Voluntary false confessions are thus explained by the internal psychological states or needs of the confessor9 or by external pressure brought to bear on the confessor by someone other than the police.34 Most voluntary false confessions appear to result from an underlying psychological disturbance or psychiatric disorder. But voluntary false confessions need not be rooted in psychological maladies. The inability to distinguish fact from fiction. According to Richard Ofshe, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, "Mentally retarded people get through life by being accommodating whenever there is a disagreement. Astonishingly, false confessions are fairly common. Interrogators may also try to make the admission appear to be voluntary, portraying the suspect as the agent of his own confession and themselves merely as its passive recipient. This is the second step in the psychological process that leads to a persuaded false confession. A person may, for example, provide a voluntary false confession out of a desire to aid and protect the real criminal,35 to provide an alibi for a different crime or norm violation,36 or to get revenge on another person.9 High-profile crimes, such as the Lindbergh kidnapping in the 1930s, the Black Dahlia murder in the 1940s, and the JonBenet Ramsey and Nicole Brown Simpson murders in the 1990s, tend to attract a large number of voluntary false confessions.37 Detectives tend to be far more skeptical and less accepting of voluntary false confessions than of police-induced false confessions. One of the biggest causes of wrongful convictions is the false assumption that no one would ever confess to a crime they didn’t commit. This bibliography was generated on Cite This For Me on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Once they obtain a confession, they typically close their investigation, clear the case as solved, and make no effort to pursue any exculpatory evidence or other possible leads, even if the confession is internally inconsistent, contradicted by external evidence, or the result of coercive interrogation.45 Even when other case evidence subsequently emerges suggesting or demonstrating that the suspect's confession is false, police almost always continue to believe in the suspect's guilt and the underlying accuracy of the confession.5,8 American police interrogators are poorly trained about the risks of psychological interrogation and the phenomenon of police-induced false confession,8,40 and, like most people, they tend to assume that virtually all confessions are true and thus assume that virtually all who confess are guilty.7, The presumption of guilt and the tendency to treat more harshly those who confess extends to prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges as well. A suspect's confession sets in motion a seemingly irrefutable presumption of guilt among justice officials, the media, the public, and lay jurors.8 This chain of events in effect leads each part of the system to be stacked against the individual who confesses, and as a result he is treated more harshly at every stage of the investigative and trial process.45 He is significantly more likely to be incarcerated before trial, charged, pressured to plead guilty, and convicted.