false confessions

A confession is a detailed written or sometimes oral statement in which a person admits to having committed a criminal offence. Confessions are very powerful evidentiary tools in criminal law when it comes to trials and certain convictions. They are an irrefutable admission of guilt. Police officers see the interrogation process as a means to obtain a confession or additional evidence to prove the person’s guilt (Ainsworth, 2000). Serious factors leading to false confessions are those that result from police interrogation methods that are designed to encourage the guilty to confess but may encourage the innocent to confess (Howitt, 2006). Not all false confessions are requested by the police. The consequence of falsely confessing can be as severe as that of giving a true confession. They run a high risk of being convicted, even if they later retract their confession, which is unlikely to be accepted. “From a psychological perspective, a false confession is any detailed admission of a criminal act that the confessor did not commit” (Kassin & Gudjosson, 2004).

Kassin (1997) classifies false confessions into three types: voluntary false confession, compliant false confession under duress, and internalized false confession under duress: Voluntary false confessions are self-incriminating statements offered without external pressure. There are various reasons why a person might be inclined to do this. One may do it to protect a family member or friend, especially when it comes to juvenile delinquents. Another reason is the pathological need for fame, acceptance, recognition or self-punishment, an example of this is the kidnapping of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby, when more than 200 people confessed to the crime (Kassin, 1997).

In Coerced – Report False Confessions, suspects confess after intense interrogation pressures. This happens when the suspect confesses to escape or avoid further questioning or to get what the police have offered in exchange for a confession. The confession in this case is simply an act of compliance and the suspect knows that he is innocent but believes that by confessing he will stay in peace, etc. They are only aware of the short-term effects of confessing and never take into account that this will lead to persecution and possibly imprisonment. They often plead guilty because the police make them believe that their sentences will be reduced (Kassin, 1997). An example of this is when 5 adolescents, between 14 and 17 years old, after intense interrogations that lasted between 14 and 30 hours, confessed to being involved in the violent attack on a 28-year-old woman. The adolescents later said that they had simply told the police what they wanted to hear, so they could go home (Meissner & Russano, 2003).

One of the most interesting types of false confessions are internalized confessions under duress. An innocent person confesses after being subjected to interrogation methods that cause great anxiety and confusion. The suspect ends up thinking that he might have committed the crime. This is very dangerous as a suspect’s memory of his actions can be altered and the suspect can no longer identify the truth. This type of confession can occur mostly if the suspect is vulnerable, for example he is naive, young, lacks intelligence along with false evidence that makes him believe that he has actually committed the act (Kassin, 1997). When suspects are confronted with false evidence of their guilt, for example being told they failed a polygraph test or that their DNA was found at the crime scene, they begin to question their memory of what really happened and their involvement. in the crime. (Meissner and Russano, 2003). The most famous case of internalized false confessions under duress is that of Paul Ingram, a sheriff’s deputy accused of the satanic ritual abuse of his daughter (Meissner & Russano, 2003). Ingram initially denied the charges, but after 5 months of repeated questioning, hypnotism, and encouragement to remember the abuse, he succumbed and confessed. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, without any physical evidence to support the confession. Ingram’s memory vulnerability was due to being repeatedly told by researchers and psychologists that “it would be natural for him to repress memories of his crimes and that his memory could be restored by praying to God for answers.” (He was a deeply religious man) (Meissner and Russano, 2003).

In 1974, members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted bombs in two pubs in Guildford, England. Five people died and 57 were injured. A month later, a bomb exploded at The King’s Arms in Woolrich, south London, killing 2 and injuring 27. The blasts caused public outrage and some 150 detectives went to work on the case. Four of the suspects who were arrested confessed to the crimes. They were convicted and imprisoned. Gudjonnson, along with others, investigated the case and ultimately made it clear that all four had confessed to crimes they did not commit. After 15 years in prison they were acquitted and released. The above case serves as excellent examples of researcher bias. The police had to be outraged by these senseless bombings. His rage may have made them “will to believe” that he was really guilty or innocent. Gudjonnson pointed out this confusing dilemma: “Interrogation bias can cause police officers to be particularly attentive and receptive to information that is consistent with their prior assumptions and beliefs, while ignoring, minimizing, or distorting information that contradicts their assumptions. Information that does not support the interviewer’s opinion.” assumptions may be misconstrued as lies, misunderstandings, evasions, or defensiveness” According to Gusjonsson, the stronger the interviewer’s prior assumptions and beliefs, the greater the interviewer’s bias.

Cops who manage to get a confession are rewarded with a lot of respect. His methods of interviewing suspects are seen as a way of displaying his ‘professional skill’ (Ainsworth, 2000). Police officers are highly motivated to solve crimes and sometimes go to great lengths to extract a confession from their suspects. Stress, pressure, and threat are applied to questioning as they increase fear, anxiety, guilt, or anger. This, according to the police, will test their ‘guilty knowledge’ (Ainsworth, 2000). Gudjonsoon criticizes the deceptive techniques of the police. He feels that “police trickery and deception deprive suspects of the opportunity to make informed and rational decisions about their right not to incriminate themselves.”

Gudjosson and Clark suggest the concept of “interrogative suggestibility” to explain how individuals respond differently to police interrogations. “Interrogative suggestibility” according to Gudjosson is how people in a closed social area accept messages during questioning and how their behavior and response are affected by this (Conti, 1999). Gudjosson described five elements that he saw as forming part of “interrogative suggestibility”: close interaction between suspect and interrogator, interrogation procedure with two or more participants, suggestive stimulus (clues, ideas), acceptance of suggested stimulus, and behavioral response to the question. suggestions (accepted or not). In such a situation, the questioner can manipulate trust, uncertainty, and expectancy in order to alter the person’s susceptibility to suggestions (Conti, 1999).

The characteristics of the person affect how this method works. People with low intelligence, poor memory, low self-esteem, anxiety are more likely to be suggestible and more likely to give false statements and confess to crimes they did not commit. Introverts are more easily conditioned than extroverts, and since many criminals are extroverts and designed for the typical criminal, they can have an adverse effect on innocent introverts. (Conti, 1999) Stress is another important factor interrogators use to elicit confessions. A certain amount of stress applied to a normal person can get the truth out of them, but if applied to someone who is psychologically weak, it can result in a false confession (Conti, 1999).

In order to reduce the incidence of false confessions, police investigators must receive special training in proper interview techniques. During training, special attention should also be paid to dealing with people with special needs, such as the mentally handicapped and minors during interrogations. Effective communication practices by investigators will lead to accuracy and accountability in the criminal justice system and hopefully reduce the number of wrongful convictions (Cassell, 1998). The judicial system needs to be more aware of inappropriate approaches to extracting confessions from suspects in custody. Interrogations should focus on eliciting the truth rather than trying to elicit a confession. When questioning a potential suspect, the investigator should assume a disinterested role rather than an adversary (Conti, 1999). The duration of the interviews are also harmful and can account for false confessions. Long questions cause anxiety and stress. Limiting the time that interrogations can last, the time that they take place, for example, not when the suspect is supposed to be sleeping, will reduce the phenomenon of false confessions (Conti, 1999). To eliminate jumping to conclusions and ensure the accuracy and authenticity of confessions, it is vital that the statements made are supported by evidence. With DNA evidence exonerating dozens of people wrongfully accused and convicted of crimes, allegations of false confessions have been vindicated.

Another idea is to video or audio record all the questions. The mandatory video recording requirement would serve the dual purpose of protecting law enforcement agencies from claims of misconduct and safeguarding the rights of suspects (Moushey and Perry, 2006). Meissner and Russano presented “best practice” recommendations for questioning suspects. The first is the Transparency of the Interrogation Process, which advocates video recording of interrogations in order to reduce the practice of investigators switching from coercive techniques to pre-interrogation techniques, and that the angle of the video recording show both the investigator and the suspect to reduce third-party bias when deciding on the voluntariness of the confession. The second recommendation is The Identification of Suspicious Vulnerabilities. Certain people are more susceptible than others, especially if they are children/young people or people with mental problems. In these cases, assistance should be provided to these people. The psychological and physical state of suspects must be taken into account at the time of questioning. Factors such as recent drug or alcohol use, lack of sleep, or pain should also be considered. In this case, the questioning should cease until the individual is in a ‘normal’ state. Meissner and Russano’s third recommendation is to avoid techniques that increase the probability of false confessions. Certain factors are known to influence people to falsely confess, so interrogators are advised not to use negative influences, such as suggesting theories of memory failure and presenting false evidence. Interrogators, according to Meissner and Russano, should also try not to drag out interrogations and not offer leniency or bargains in exchange for a confession. Meissner and Russano’s final recommendation is the Post-Interrogation Confession Reliability Analysis suggested by Leo and Oshe (1998). An evaluation of all the facts before and after the interrogation is recommended to verify that all the facts are consistent.

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